The Rock Churches

The Rock Churches of the territory of Matera , based mainly in the Middle Ages , buildings are carved into the rock . Initially born as religious structures , over time have undergone several changes of use , becoming homes or shelters for animals . They are important evidence of the presence of the community of Benedictine monks , Lombards and Byzantines . Some churches also , despite the substantial setting Latin , Byzantine elements present , or vice versa , architecturally Greek churches have liturgical spaces of the Latin type . The rock churches often contain frescoes and sculptures , which , in addition to the decorative function , induced to contemplation and prayer .

There are more than 150 rock churches in Matera and around, but the most important are:

chiesa1SANTA MARIA DE IDRIS/SAN GIOVANNI IN MONTERRONE ROCK CHURCH: It is located at the top of Monterrone, a large limestone cliff that rises in the middle of the Sasso Caveoso. The name derives from the greek Idris Hodegetria, it who shows the way, or the water that gushed from the rock. It consists of a nave with irregular frescoes, placed on the wall of the crypt, most of which are detached for restoration being deteriorated due to moisture and kept at the Historical and Artistic Heritage Office of Matera. On the altar there is a Madonna and Child dating from the seventeenth century painted in tempera, right Eustace, patron of the city and other frescoes dating from the seventeenth century and always still a crucifixion of invoice rough background with the silhouette of the city of Matera. The church of Santa Maria de Idris rock is connected to the crypt of St. John Monterrone through a tunnel, and in the crypt there are numerous and beautiful frescoes that date back over a period of time ranging from the twelfth to the seventeenth century. In the access tunnel there is a fresco depicting St. John the Baptist; in a lunette above the altar a fresco dating from the twelfth century of Christ Pantocrator blessing to the Latin, who with his left hand holds an open Gospel in which is inscribed a greek text. This fresco shows the influence of the Byzantine iconographic culture .. Opposite St. Nicholas (XIV century) in episcopal robes, blessing with his right hand and holding the Gospel with the left. Leaving the hall you enter a classroom wider, forming the nave true church of San Giovanni in Monterrone, which ends in a presbytery; on the opposite wall there is a fresco depicting the head of St. Andrew and fragments of a Madonna and Child in the iconographic type of Glykophilousa, also dating to the late twelfth century, and two unknown saints. On the left wall, placed in niches decorated, two other saints, one of them identified in St. Peter based on the lines of his face, his beard and hair, even in the absence of the keys, and side of St. James, dating from the thirteenth century.

chiesa2SANTA LUCIA ALLE MALVE ROCK CHURCH: It is the first female of the Benedictine monastic settlement, dating back to the ‘eighth century, and the most important in the history of the city of Matera.

A community that through its three successive monastic offices of Saint Lucia alle Malve, of Saint Lucia and Saint Lucia to the Civita Plan was an integral part of the life of Matera following their historical and urban development over a millennium.

The environments of the Community to identify its presence in high carved in relief, the symbols of the martyrdom of Saint Lucia: the cup with the two eyes of the Holy.

Of the three naves that articulating the interior space, the right one, which is the input current, has always remained open for worship, so much so that even today the day of Santa Lucia, December 13, here you hold a solemn mass.

A keynote speaker is necessary to explain the presence of ancient frescoes, some even a millennium, so wonderfully preserved: they perfectly preserve their colors and their subjects only if executed with a precise technique, well known in the territory Materano by many Masters fresco active over the centuries.

The Madonna del Latte dated around 1270 and performed by the same master fresco painter who painted the Madonna della Bruna (in the Cathedral) called for this Master of Bruna, shows the Madonna and Child, in a gesture of tenderness that probably represented to reiterate a size closer to the man of God that authoritarian and vindictive as it was conceived in the Middle Ages. Not to touch the blasphemy the fresco painted breasts of Madonna in a decentralized manner with respect to the real anatomy and small.

In the niche next, St. Michael the Archangel dated 1250, serving as the messenger of God, is of sopraveste studded with precious stones, the symbol of the ambassadors of the imperial court of Byzantium and holds in one hand a seal with a Greek cross. In the other hand he has the labarum and underfoot twists the dragon representing the devil. A Latin Christian iconography with elements harmoniously fused Eastern Christian.



SAN PIETRO BARISANO ROCK CHURCH: originally called Saint Peter de veteribus , is the largest cave churches of the city of Matera .

The archaeological investigations have identified the first plant rock , dating from the twelfth – thirteenth century , below the floor . The Church has three naves , a new facade ( dated 1755) and the underground areas for the ” draining ” of the corpses . This practice funeral , reserved for priests or would-be , was to put the corpses clothes vestments modeled niches in the tufa ; the remains were removed only at the end of the decomposition .

chiesa4CONVICINIO OF SANT’ANTONIO ROCK CHURCH: Presented by an elegant portal, surmounted of a pointed arch, overlooked by four rock-hewn churches. The first church is known as TEMPE FALLS, a name given to the whole district subject to continual rock falls, the ‘tempe’. The second crypt is dedicated to SANT’ELIGIO considered the protector of pets. A saint particularly revered in the past, from a company as their mother tongue, rural and pastoral. The crypt while rough and changed, after processing in the cellar following the abandonment and the construction of the chapel in the district of Plan of the eighteenth century, is still visible in the plan. In the left apse in a wide bezel decorated with a series of panels, stands a Christ PANTOCRATOR, the fourteenth century in the classic iconography of blessing with the right and send the open Gospel in his left hand.

The third is called CRYPT OF SAN DONATO with quadrangular plan with only two central pillars that break the plane of the apses sketchy. The vault of the presbytery left differs for the cruise and the central element for a large dome with a cross inscribed lilied relief. Last is the crypt of St. Anthony, has three naves. In the three aisles you can see the millstones for the production of wine, as in recent times the church was abandoned and used as cantina.Gli frescoes entering on the right, on the first pillar, St. Anthony Abbot (XV century), the pillar Next San Sebastian (XV century), while in the apse of the left aisle there is a devotional scene dating from the eighteenth century, probably related to the cult of the Madonna of Picciano.

SANTA MARIA DE ARMENIS ROCK CHURCH: The church served as the headquarters of the Brotherhood of St. Francis of Paola , where some noble families of Matera , including Malvinni , realize the church altars to the devotion to the saint . The Brotherhood leave the church in 1774 , moving into new purpose-built building in the Plan , near Piazza Vittorio Veneto ; it is transformed into residential resulting in a series of monastic tampering plant . The church , in fact , has a nave built , covered by a barrel vault , with a large lowered arch that divides the room from the presbytery with a domed roof . To the right and to the left of the entrance are shown a series of quadrangular rooms and on the walls of a sequence of frescoes very spoiled .