Not too far from Taranto,
on the Ionic coast, the name Grottaglie already reveals the
main characteristics of its territory.
Its name derives from the Latin Cryptae Aliae, meaning many
ravines. It was these very same grottos which gave refuge
and habitation to the population since Neolithic times, which,
and in turn over the centuries, gave the beginnings of some
Not much is known about the subsequent period, but some finds
makes one think that the period was one of major commercial
development; in both the Greek and Roman eras.
The arrival of the Goths during the 5th Century, brought destruction
to the villages and the flight of its inhabitants to the grottos;
which were only abandoned after pacification of the territory
during the 6th Century, after the Greek-Gothic War (535-553).
Under Byzantine domination, the inhabitants left the grottos
and formed Casale Cryptalearum, which with time saw the arrival
of other inhabitants.
The City passed hands to the Normans in the 11th Century and
was donated to the Archbishopric of Taranto by Robert Guiscard
In 1297, Robert, Duke of Calabria, gave his permission to
neighbouring rural homes to become part of the Casale Cryptalearum,
giving rise to Casalgrande.
Under the guide of Archbishop Giacomo of Atri during the 15th
century, the City walls, the Chiesa Madre (Mother Church)
and Episcopal Castle were erected.
However, the ecclesiastical administration was not always
well accepted by the population which with time turned into
spates of dissatisfaction, culminating with the public revolts
of 1647 and 1734.
The situation did not improve greatly under Bourbon domination
(from 1734), and the clashes between the archbishops and the
Cincinelli feudatories worsened until the abolition date of
feudal rights in 1806.
The downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy in 1799, the diffusion
of laical and republican ideals and the formation of the Republic
of Naples (1808-1815), also provoked the annulment and dismemberment
of all the archbishops’ patrimony. This was therefore
a hard blow for Grottaglie, as it had been under their administration
During the 19th Century, before becoming part of the Unification
of the Reign of Italy (1861), Grottaglie had to face the brigandage
phenomenon, a power which began due to the absence of central
Bourbonist control over the territory.
The main monuments in the City are the Cathedral and Episcopal
The 15th Century Castle was the main seat of power of the
Tarantini Archbishops over the centuries and was built in
the 15th Century and then re-adjusted until the end of the
17th Century. Today the building houses a Ceramic Museum.
The Chiesa Madre (Mother Church) with its Romanesque style
façade, is positioned in Piazza Regina Margherita.
Excluding the adjacent Palazzo Cicinelli, home to the only
laic feudatories of Grottaglie, and a few other religious
buildings in the City, the following are testimony to the
power exercised by the archbishops: The Chiesa della Madonnna
del Lume, the Clarisse Monastery (1587) and the Paolotti Church.