Matera is a town in Basilicata, in southern Italy. The World Heritage site includes the Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, a complex of houses, churches, monasteries and hermitages built in the natural caves of the Murgia, a limestone plateau characterized by deep fissures , ravines, rocks and caves.
Man has always chosen cave life in this area, demonstrating an adaptation to the environment that over the millennia has translated into a dwelling modality, peculiar to Matera, of exceptional cultural and anthropological value.
The houses in the two Sassi of Matera, the Caveoso and the Barisano, surround the Civita, or the oldest part of the city, which is located in the highest part. The caves in the Sassi are of different shapes and sizes and over time became the basis for the raising of the first houses, integrating fully with the environment thanks to the use, for the built elements, of the same excavation rocks of the rooms. The result is a collection of houses in shades of gray and white that hardly stand out from the rocks in which they are inserted. The typical house inside the Sassi of Matera is on three levels, including the stable, the cellar and the cistern. In most cases the rooms were mixed, it was very common for example to have bedrooms that housed both people and animals.
The dwellings in the Sassi have been abandoned since 1952 and today many of them, transformed into hotels and accommodation facilities, offer the numerous tourists the opportunity to experience the atmosphere of life in the cave.
The Park of the Rupestrian Churches includes over 150 examples of churches in cliffs, often frescoed or in bas-relief, a patrimony of sacred art that testifies to the various historical and cultural seasons of the territory. The maternal habit of daily life in the grotto also determined the places of worship, which adapted to the hypogeal dimension. The churches are often only one room, or have two or three naves; sometimes they are entirely excavated in the earth, sometimes they have a built façade, but the constant element is a widespread presence in the territory at a capillary level. The first churches in the cliff are due to medieval monastic culture, starting from the 8th century.
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