Mottola, located in the heart of the Regional Park of the Terra delle Gravine, was called by the Italian Touring Club 'the icing on the cake Ionian rocky habitat', referring to the Mirabili Grotte di Dio, the four most important rock churches of Mottola, as defined by Bell'Italia magazine in the '80s.
It is an ancient town already inhabited in prehistoric times, as shown by the remains of the megalithic walls. It was also dominated by the Lombards, Byzantines and Normans and has an interesting Cathedral built in the XIII century.
Mottola area is rich in rock chuches created in the middle age and painted with Byzantium style paintings, dating back from the XI to the XIV century.
What to see
Chiesa rupestre di San Nicola
The cave church of St. Nicholas of Myra, dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, children, women and the city of Bari, was defined in the '70s the Sistine cliff.
It has a Latin cross shape and is completely painted with frescoes of saints such as that of St. Peter's, St. George, St. Basil, St. Lawrence, St. Stephen and Saint Lucia.
In 2008 something new regarding its architecture was discovered in this church: during the equinoxes a light passing through a mysterious circular window, obliquely carved into the west wall, lightened up the heart of the fresco of San Nicola.
Chiesa rupestre di Santa Margherita
The cave church of Santa Margherita was dedicated, in the Middle Age, to the patron of pregnant women. The patron is portrayed in elegant clothes, finely embroidered, in a valuable fresco, dating from the 12h to the 14th century, with influences of refined Comnenian Byzantine art.
The church, probably attended only by women, has numerous frescoes depicting wonderful, beautiful Virgins and Child, but also for the icon of Margaret and the story of her martyrdom.
This story, told in twelve panels, follows the plot described by the sacred Jacopo da Voragine in his Golden Legend, a true best seller spread throughout Europe in the 13th century.
The church also houses a rarity in iconography: the fresco of St. Nicholas that provides the dowry to the girls, saving them from prostitution.
Chiesa rupestre di Sant'Angelo
The cave church of Sant'Angelo, dug into the rock village of Casalrotto, is the only Italian cave church excavated on two underground levels. It has a shape of a Greek cross with a double entrance and altars both of Greek and Latin type.
The lower floor has six graves dug in the floor but it still is a church, for the presence of the altar and seating for the faithful.
In this church there are beautiful frescoes. Inside the central apse of the upstairs floor there is the the fresco of a Jesus Christ with a furrowed brow, between the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, and, in the right apse, the fresco of St James, dressed as a pilgrim, instead of the usual Baptist.
Downstairs there is the fresco of Chris between two unusual intercessors on his side: Saint Basil and St. Andrew. Under an arch there is also a fresco of Saint Peter.
Chiesa rupestre di San Gregorio
The cave church of San Gregorio is of a Greek cross shape, with the cross-shaped pillars, arches and decorated ceilings. The Pantocratore, namely, Jesus Christ Almighty, that stands in the frescoed dome central apse, has been compared by scholars, for its facial features and style, to that of the Norman Cathedral of Monreale, made of precious mosaic gold.
Text provided by Maria Grottola.
For more info about Mottola visit this website: www.visitmottola.com
Mottola tourist information
Towns in Puglia