MASSAFRA

Situated on the Murgia plateau of Taranto, Massafra is also known by the name of Tebaide d’Italia, due to numerous Rupestrian settlements present in the Karst formation caves throughout the territory.

Its territory was inhabited since Neolithic times, as demonstrated by the Dolmen of Accetta and during the entire Bronze Age.
During the pre-Roman era, there should have already been habitation in the territory, but concrete evidence re Massafra appears in history only around the 5th Century AD, with the arrival of the North African Christian community who were escaping due to the arrival of the Vandals. These refugees settled in the caves, giving life to the well documented Rupestrian Civilisation.
After an initial Byzantine period (6th Century), the City became a Longobard settlement (7th Century) and seat of a “Gastaldato” (administrative office of the Reign).
During the 10th Century, the suburb became part of a conflict between the Byzantines and the Longobards, which concluded only with the rise of Norman power. In this period, there were also frequent Saracen raids over the entire territory of Puglia.
During 1085, it was the Norman Riccardo Senescalco, a noble of Massafra and Dragone of Altavilla’s son, who ordered that the City be fortified and the Castle built. This castle was subsequently often frequented by the Swabian Emperor, Federick II and Bianca Lancia, mother of the future King Manfredi.
The arrival of the Angioini in the South (1266) saw Massafra assigned as a feudatory to Oddone of Soliac, who governed it badly and was subsequently removed by Carlo II of Angiò in 1296.
Under the Angiò’s, there were various feudatories, among which the Sanseverino Family and the Del Balzo Orsini.
In 1484, Antonio Pisciello became Baron of Massafra, under the Reign of the Aragonese, now owners of Southern Italy.
These were succeeded by the Pappacoda’s in 1497, under which Massafra saw a period of architectural and economic splendour.
In 1633, the Carmignano Family acquired the feudatory from the Pappacoda’s for 110 thousand ducats and at the end of the century, Massafra passed to the Imperiali’s, who kept it until the abolition of feudal rights by Bonaparte in 1806.
Republican ideals, brought from France with the decline of Napoleon in 1799, allowed Italy to live a revolutionary period called the Renaissance, an important period which led to the formation of the Reign of Italy in 1861.
During the First World War, Massafra housed many Italian soldiers in departure to the Albanese front.
Massafra is crowded with interesting cultural places and offers numerous and diverse ideas to visit, beginning with the Castle (970), later modified by the Normans, Angioini and Aragonese, which faces the caves of San Marco. It is, however, the churches which govern the visit: A visit to the caves should definitely not be missed, as they contain an uninterrupted testimony from Neolithic to Byzantine eras. It is impossible to name all of them, but we would like to highlight the Candelora, S. Anthony and S. Leonardo crypts.
Among the more interesting religious buildings: the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Scala, the S. Lucia Church and the Baroque San Benedetto Church.

MASSAFRA
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Puglia (Apulia) region of Italy

 

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