The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993.
There are more than 150 rock churches in Matera and around. Matera is the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem. The first inhabited zone dates from the Palaeolithic, while later settlements illustrate a number of significant stages in human history. Initially born as religious structures, over time they have undergone several changes of use, becoming homes or shelters for animals. They are important evidence of the presence of the community of Benedictine monks, Lombards and Byzantines. The rock churches often contain frescoes and sculptures, which, in addition to the decorative function, induced to contemplation and prayer.
Don’t miss out on some of Matera’s best rock churches. Book online on Materawithme to easy access to Matera’s sights.
1. Crypt of original sin
The Crypt of the Original Sin, in Matera, is located inside a natural cavity on the Murgia plateau, near the Via Appia.
Commonly known as “the Sistine Chapel of rupestrian art”, it was discovered in 1963 by a group of local youths, who noticed the splendid frescoes in what at the time had become a shelter for sheep herds.
2. Santa Maria de Idris
Dug into the Idris rock, this church has an unprepossessing facade, but the narrow corridor communicating with the recessed church of San Giovanni in Monterrone is richly decorated with 12th- to 17th-century frescoes.
3. Santa Lucia alle Malve
It is the first female of the Benedictine monastic settlement, dating back to the ‘eighth century, and the most important in the history of the city of Matera.
A community that through its three successive monastic offices of Saint Lucia alle Malve, of Saint Lucia and Saint Lucia to the Civita Plan was an integral part of the life of Matera following their historical and urban development over a millennium.
The rupestrian church of Saint Eustachio is also known as Santo Stasio alla Gravina. It is dedicated to Saint Eustachio, located on the left side of the Gravina. A secret gem rich in valuable wall paintings including a depiction of Saint Eustachio, the patron saint of Matera.
5. Convicinio Sant’Antonio
At the end of the gentle climb up, an elegant portal with an ogee arch leads to a rectangular courtyard onto which four rock-churches face: this is known as the Convicinio di Sant’Antonio.
6. Santa Maria de Armenis
It was probably the Armenian ethnic component present in the Byzantine armies to lead to Matera the devotion to Our Lady of the Armenians.
Access to this rock church is through a portal carved with decorative architectural elements in the shape of half-lunettes and arches. Inside there are three naves absidiate, with arcades that retain traces of ancient paintings. Now it plays mostly cultural functions: it is used for exhibitions, concerts, gastronomic events, and other initiatives.
7. Madonna delle Tre Porte
On the Murgia Timone, at 300 metres from Sant’Agnese Crypt, you can find the sanctuary of Madonna delle Tre Porte. The original entrance has completely fallen down. The inside has a pseudo-rectangular shape with the minor sides symmetrically opposed and with three apse holes.
8. San Pietro Barisano
It derives its name from the younger district of the Sassi. From the outside, you can look at a campanile on the left side of the church sited on a rock plane, which has then been reinforced with a basis to prevent it from falling over the underlying homes. The façade, built in tufa stones, has a very simple architecture which makes it elegant.
9. Madonna delle Vergini
The rock church “Madonna delle Vergini” is carved into the tuff in the natural and archaeological park of the rupestrian churches. The view of Matera from here is absolutely stunning!
10. Santuario SS. Crocifisso della Selva