The city of stone
« “The city has a curious look, located in three deep valleys in which, with artifice, and on dry native stone, the churches sit above the houses and those hanging under there, confusing the dead and living room. The night lights make it resemble a starry sky. »
-Giovan Battista Pacichelli, The Kingdom of Naples in Perspective
The stones of Matera is a real cultural landscape, capable of perpetuating from the most distant prehistoric past to the modern times, the ways of living the caves.
Renaissance and Baroque facades open on eighth century tanks, converted into housing. Byzantine churches hide wells dedicated to the worship of Mitra. Some tombs have been excavated several times up until the fifties, other walled up and forgotten, are hidden in the hill-sides. The Stones, the peasant village, together with the aristocratic and medieval Civita, built on an ancient acropolis, are in effects a schedule full of surprises, even if they seem still and compact, enclosed in the bare rock at times touched by a light whitewash.
Matera is one of the oldest and best preserved examples of bio-architecture in the world.
Its strategic location in the area, useful for the safety of the city over the past centuries has, however, led its inhabitants to enormous difficulties in getting their water supply. In fact, the Sassi were built on a huge limestone table about 150 meters above the river level, while the clay hills surrounding them in the west are too distant. In a city designed to prevent sieges, autonomy is paramount and must be ensured from the inside.
Since the early days, therefore, its people concentrated their energies, not so much on the construction of houses, as the excavation of tanks and cisterns and their system of water pipes and plumbing.
If you pay attention, seemingly simple and rudimentary structures reveal wonders of technical efficiency. The humble archaic techniques, forgotten by the inhabitants themselves, disclose charm and value once unimaginable. The troglodytes who dig canals and tanks, build hanging gardens, and around the public spaces, now called neighborhoods and share their resources, suddenly show their human genius. Amazingly, all of this is still present and alive, before our eyes, in a city that keeps unchanged the magic of time gone by.