In the field of art, special attention
should be paid to pre-Christian and early Christian art, rooted
in this land to such a degree that you might even consider
Apulia as a huge archaeological site. If you think about the
importance attached to these places owing to the ongoing relations
and trade with the Near East, it will come natural to think
that foreign rule dates from the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The new archaeological discovery of
Apulia is not only epitomised by museums, but more specifically
by the ongoing search for traces of the past. Ruins of ancient
towns were brought to light and said discovery provided some
useful indications about the lifestyle of old dwellers: funerary
outfits, vases, coins, statues, jewellery and several objects
of daily use were found during excavations, thus telling the
story of peoples considered to be the forefathers of modernity.
One of the most interesting Apulian
archaeological centres is the city of Egnatia, whose ruins
are half-submerged by water: rectangular tombs, full of sea
deposits, are carved in rocks. EGNATIA was a thriving Messapian
and then Roman city, well-renowned for its trades and pottery.
Still today, around the ACROPOLIS, surrounded by walls, we
note the remains of floors, porticos, temples, as well as
the FORUM and the ruins of an AMPHITHEATRE and a basilica
with a nave and two aisles divided by columns whose bases
are still visible today; the stones of the ancient TRAJAN
way with ruts of wheels, and then cisterns, wells, tombs and
bits of cyclopean walls that go down to reach the port.
Probably the city witnessed a battle
during the twenty-year Greek-Gothic war (5th century AD).
In any case, the city started to decline right at that time
and never recovered. Today's life is represented by archaeological
research; visitors who may admire the Archaeological Park
and, beyond a typically Apulian dry wall, the modern National
Museum and the Messapian Necropolis where, amid other finds,
you may admire the wonderful mosaic of the Three Graces, a
unique example of mosaic art in Egnatia (the subject of the
mosaic is mythological and was widely common in figurative
arts during the Roman age).
In the city of Ostuni, inside the ex convent of the Monacelle,
you may find the Pre-classical History Museum of southern
Murgia that groups together a number of archaeological finds
in connection with the stratigraphic surveys carried out in
this area with a view to identifying some traces of pre-classical
civilisations, in addition to the remains of a pregnant woman
that are now 20,000 years old, thus making her be remembered
as the oldest mother in the world. The city of Taranto, apart
from preserving the latest ruins of Magna Grecia buildings
such as the amphitheatre, a Doric temple, part of an aqueduct
and the baths, hosts the National Archaeological Museum. Here
you may admire some fascinating remains of funerary outfits,
which are famous especially for the polished filigree work
of noble metals.
But the discovery of the past of this land is not only related
to the Greeks and the Romans. As a matter of fact, the collapse
of the Holy Roman Empire brought about a period of great historical
confusion that resulted in the Middle Ages during which many
Byzantine monks flew from the East and found shelter in this
land, living hidden in ravines. The ravines, formed by rifts
caused by seismic events and then eroded by the wind and underground
rivers, are commonly scattered throughout Apulia and represented
the ideal shelter for said communities.
The rediscovery of these places is a journey marked by colours,
graffiti and engravings typical of Christian-Orthodox iconography
that brings evidence about the Christian fervour of local
Around Fasano, and more specifically
in Lama d'Antico, you may still see a church with a Greek
plan dominated by several domes covered with frescoes portraying
Jesus Christ between Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist,
approximately dating from the 12th century. In St. Mark ravine
in Massafra, another grand rupestrian work is still visible.
The influence of Christian communities is very strong in this
place. The fresco of Pantocrator Christ is kept in St. Marine
crypt, in addition to other examples of decorative wealth
and frescoes, like the crypts of Madonna della Candelora and
S. Maria della Buona Nuova. Please remember that these were
not only places of worship, but real communities.