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San Giovanni Battista

Built in 1233, also called Santa Maria La Nova ai Foggiali or delle Nove (Novarum Monialum), this church is among the most important examples of medieval architecture in southern Italy, where it is possible to find both the typical Romanesque architectural motifs, and the oriental-style calls of the vaults.

During the guided tour you will be able to admire, in the right nave, the inscription that certifies that it was Bishop Andrea who led a community of cloistered from Palestine to Matera, called the penitents of Accon.
It was the first sacred building to rise outside the walls, next to the small church that belonged to the Confraternity of the Flagellated Christ or the Artists, which came to light recently for some restoration works.

Considered unsafe for the position, the church and the convent were abandoned in 1480, the year in which the Turks conquered Otranto, where numerous Matera people came to help the Christians.
The nuns found refuge near the Cathedral until 1695, the year in which Mons. Del Ryos reopened it for worship, with the name of San Giovanni Battista. Other sources report, however, that it was Archbishop F. Zunica to reopen it for worship in 1796, bringing back the parish of the San Giovanni Vecchio district, hosted for centuries in an unhealthy cave in the nearby and nearby Via S. Rocco.

To improve its static nature and the collapse of the domes, in 1793 the church underwent drastic changes, internal and external, so much so that it was necessary to move the entrance portal, found during recent work in the adjacent convent, originally arranged in the north, cardinal point that in the Middle Ages symbolized darkness.

In the upper part of today’s Romanesque facade it is possible to observe a tympanum, in the center of which there is a rose window flanked by elegant hanging columns, rich in zoomorphic figures. At the center of four supporting arches, you can admire the entrance portal, the work of the masters Michele Del Giudice and Marco Di Lauria, from Matera and Lecce, very rich in decorations and similar to the side door of the Cathedral, known as the lions.

The external part of the apse has arrived intact, where, at the top of the tympanum, there is an angel, a large round arch with two elephants on the sides, supported by shelves. To complete the exemplary typicality of the Romanesque style, we find a beautiful decorated window, with columns and animal figures, from which, through a vertical single-lancet window, the apse takes light.

While driving, you will be struck by the mystical and medieval atmosphere of the interior, with a Latin cross and three naves, where the four-lobed columns are adorned with beautiful capitals, each different from the other, with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and vegetal figures. Fortunately, in 1926 the abbot Marcello Morelli thought it well to remove the Baroque plaster, bringing the interior back to its primitive sobriety.

On the first altar of the left aisle, enclosed by elegant sculptures, perhaps the work of Altobello Persioo of his workshop, we find the 16th century fresco of S. Maria La Nova, by anonymous.
Continuing, here is the chapel dedicated to Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Medici Martyrs, whose wooden statues with the sumptuous green and red colored cloaks, are carried in procession with the characteristic votive candles on the last Sunday of September.

In the same chapel there is a painting depicting S. Antonio Abate, S. Domenico, S. Eligio, S. Cosma, S. Biagio, S. Vincenzo surrounding the Virgin in Glory, a work of 1727 by the good Matera painter Vito Antonio Conversi.
Further on, at the end of the nave, in a niche there is a Pietà of 1888, in papier-mache, the work of Pasquale Calabrese from Matera.

In the right aisle we find the sculpture by Ercole Reduzzi of the baptismal font, made in 1929 and, finally, in a secluded niche, there is the tuff statue of San Giovanni, a work by the maternal school of 1500, previously placed in the altar greater.

On the base of a column of the church of San Giovanni Battista there is an engraving that reads: DIE 29 DEC… INTERFECTUS EST COMES. This is the news relating to the killing of Count Tramontano on the evening of 29 December 1514, on the occasion of the mass of the vespers.

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