History of Matera


Matera is the 3rd oldest city in the world (1. Aleppo in Syria 2. Jericho in West Bank)

There are so many theories about the name of the city. Different researchers, in particular Mr Cely Colaianni says that: “Matheola is the old Japigia where there is a grave that the Greek people called Mataios Olos (Vacuous). For this reason the name is Mataiaole and Mater Mateola.

In the Hellenic period there is a presence of some refugees from Metaponto and Heraclea. These 2 cities were destroyed by the war. People says that maybe the name come from MET+HERA.

Other people say that it comes from the word MATA, which means “rock” or METEORON, which means “Sky full of Stars”, the amazing view at night from the Sassi.

During the Roman Period (Quinto Cecilio Metello), the city was called MATEOLA.

Other People called this city MATHER (EARTH MOTHER).

In this city it’s possible to find evidences of the Stone Age located in the DOMENICO RIDOLA NATIONAL ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM.

In Matera and neighbours there are a lot of Neolithic villages. This is a perfect testimony of that time thanks to the discovering of the SERRA D’ALTO CERAMIC. This represents the artistry of the craft sector. With the field of pastoralism was born in the Murgia Plateau the first landscape to work and were fixed the economic institutions, religious, political, giving rise to a city.

Maybe this city could have Greek origin. The Testimony is the coat of arms, the bull with ears of corn, it is a typical symbol of Ancient Greece. The Count Gattini and the Poet Tommaso Stigliani said that the Bull represents Metaponto city and the ears of corn represent their local currency. Matera was occupied by the inhabitants of Metaponto, when this city was destroyed by Annibale. The testimony of the Roman period is a presence of a Tower the METELLANA TOWER. It is located next to the VIA APPIA. It was used as a central passage and supply of wheat .

During the AUGUSTO period, Matera was included in the REGIO II APULIA et CALABRIA. In the VI century a.C. the city was included in the Duchy of Benevento. Matera was occupied by the Lombards, Byzantines and Saracens and in the 867 the city was destroyed by the Emperor Ludovico II.

In the IX century a.C. was the was the Norman period, one of the best period for the city. Matera was born around the Civita and was protected by city walls. In the same period, in the Murgia Plateau area, a lot of hermit monks from Cappadocia came to Matera. Thanks them there are today more than 150 Rock Churches with frescoes inside.

The power of the Norman is located in the Cathedral. The Cathedral is the symbol of the power of the Western Church. In the 1481 came the King of Naples Ferdinand I, in the same period in Matera there was the power and the presence of the Count Tramontano.

In the 1514 the population enraged by the injustice and oppressed by taxes rised up and killed the Count Tramontano. Between the XV and the XVI century a.C., people from Croatia and Albania came to Matera, creating a district called RIONE CASALNUOVO. In the 1663, during the Spanish period Matera began Capital of Basilicata and

headquarters directing hearing.

Matera was capital of Basilicata until the 1806, in this period Mr Giuseppe Bonaparte moved the role power to Potenza city

bimbiAfter the XVI century a.C. Sassi represented the ashamed of Italy. People lived in a very bad sanitation, in a very small houses without water, no toilette , all together also with animals.

In Matera there were situations concerning the Italian Risorgimento: Brigandage. There were various bands controlled by Rocco Chirichigno from Montescaglioso, Vincenzo Mastronardi from Ferrandina, Eustachio Fasano from Matera, and the las one  Eustachio Chita, called  Chitaridd.

In 1927 Matera began Provincial Capital. In 1935 the Province of Matera hosted the writer Carlo Levi, who wrote the famous book CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI.

Matera was the first town that rebelled against the Nazis, for this reason Matera was awarded a silver medal for military valor. (the 21st of september 1943).



In 1948 comes the question of the Sassi of Matera , raised by Palmiro Togliatti before , and Alcide De Gasperi later.

In 1952 it comes to the allocation of funds for the construction of new residential areas that would form the new city in which to bring together the 15,000 people who lived in the cave-dwellings .

For this reason was born the Commission for the study of the city of Matera and farm , established by Adriano Olivetti , president of the National Institute of Urban Planning and sociologist Frederick Friedman , which employs experts in various disciplines such as history , demography , economics, urban planning , paleoethnology , sociology , and involved representatives prestigious Italian urban planning , to design and create neighborhoods that resume as possible models of social life of the Sassi .

The new quarters represent a work of great architectural importance of the current Neorealist Rationalism Italian after World War II .

In 1993, the Sassi of Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Finally in 2014 the city was named European Capital of Culture for 2019