Matera - The "Sassi"
Rock Church of Madonna dei Derelitti
The Sassi Barisano
and Caveoso, set on the deep slopes of a
valley, with cavernous meanders and underground
labyrinths, hide relics of a remote past rich in culture
and history. Caves and underground architectures are
connected by steps carved out of the cliffs and are
enclosed by dry-stone walls bounding small vegetable
gardens, authentic stone gardens to be tilled, where the
fecund strength of the vegetable world reveals its
utmost potency. Wandering along the streets of this
underground city you run into ancient places of worship,
used to celebratc in the depths of the earth the
nuptials of sun and stone. To this archaic city fabric,
medieval monasticism brought new sap: countless
hermitages, churches and hypogean basilicas rise on the
sides of the ravine and in secondary valleys. Some
crypts are decorated with frescoes that are often well
conserved, many in Byzantine style.
The superb cathedral, built with the white stone of the
nearby Vaglia quarreys, and looming, with its
radiance, over the entire city, eloquently expresses the
simplicity and beauty of the Romanesque style. The
striking churches of Santa Lucia, San Francesco di
Assisi, Materdomini, del Purgatorio were built
during the Renaissance and, later, during the Baroque
In the area of Matera there is a great number
of small churches, some of which are difficult to reach.
They were dug right into the tuff or built into natural
caves. They attest to the presence of monastic
settlements, places of worship, communities of
shepherds, etc., dating back to ancient times. Some of
these rock churches are of noteworthy interest (S.
Maria della Valle, also called La Vaglia, S.
Maria delle Virtù, S. Maria de Armenis). In others
remnants of frescos of the 12th - 16th centuries have
been preserved (Crypt of the Original Sin, S. Lucia
alle Malve, S. Nicola dei Greci, S. Giovanni in
Monterrone, Madonna delle Tre Porte). They are all
proof of the continuity of worship and culture in the