Friday, December 26, 2014

Matera - Cave Town

December 23, 2014

Matera is an interesting city in the Basilicata region of southern Italy known for its picturesque sassi district, a large ravine with cave dwellings and rupestrian churches dug into the soft limestone. The sassi date from prehistoric times and were used as housing until the 1950's when residents, primarily living in poverty stricken conditions, were relocated.

Today the sassi district is a fascinating sight that can be viewed from above and explored on foot. There are several rupestrian churches open to the public, a reproduction of a typical cave house.  Because of its similarity to Jerusalem, several movies have been filmed in the sassi district including Mel Gibson's, The Passion of the Christ .

The more "modern" city, surrounding the sassi area dates from around the 13th century. 

Mountain side in Matera dotted with cave openings that were really cave dwellings.

We stopped to ask a man a question about Matera and he told us to follow him into the building behind him because he wanted to show us something.  He took us to a small garden and showed us these square boxes in the wall and explained how they were beehives from about 600 AD that the people used to provide honey.  I've read about them, but never seen them.  President had one of the mission bee pins with him and gave it to the man who had shown it to us.  He was really touched.

Artist autographing the nativity we purchased from him.

Cave church built into the side of the mountain.

City that has been built around the cave dwellings.

The huge rock on the mountain is really a church.

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