The Cathedral

The hamlet and its domina The most beautiful part of Altamura is the medieval town and its palatine cathedral, the only temple erected by Frederick in 1232, the great builder of castles. The true religious, civic and historic symbol of the city is the Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption. Much of the original church collapsed under the 1316 earthquake and was rebuilt during the reign of Robert of Anjou. The children of a certain master of Bitonto Council worked there, whose signature reads up on the Angevin Port, also known as Port of the Spices because it opened on the market place. To whom goes through this portal, the inscription on the groin archivolt seems to say: “Royal Chapel I am, do not try to fight me. I, King Robert, protected by the King of heavens, protect it. Gate of Heaven, I am.” The inversion The cathedral underwent several expansions in 1534 when its orientation was inverted: where there was the apse, was built the facade, and where there was the facade it was extended with the presbytery and the choir. After a few years, but no later than 1557, the two mighty bell towers were built. The Emperor is Charles V, whose great coat of arms is clearly visible. The upper parts, the baroque cusps of the bell towers, were added in 1729. The entire structure finds its point of balance and symmetry in the beautiful rose window, a masterpiece of Apulian sculpture of ‘300, from the central eye of which seems to radiate 15 columns linked by spoked-ring arches. The triumph of decorations It is however the portal, Gothic and perhaps built in the early 1400′s, to let us astonished: it is a whole triumph of decorations and sculptures, in a protruding porch, resting on two fierce lions, rebuilt in 1533, almost guarding to the door of the Cathedral. On the arches of the door are sculpted 22 carved scenes, among the most significant in the life of Jesus. In the center, in the lunette, there is the Madonna Enthroned with the Child between two angels, and at the bottom, on the lintel is depicted the Last Supper with Christ on the left side receiving the kiss of Judas. They are true masterpieces of medieval sculpture, gothic Apulian art. The legendary interior Its plant is that of a Basilica with three wide naves with columns and pillars, with beautiful capitals, almost certainly Swabian. The restoration and the latest renovations, which took place around 1850, through the work of Msgr. Falconi, have redefined the image of the church. Even the monumental organ dates back to thiese years, built by masters of Turin: for quality, richness and grandeur of sounds it is among the most complete organs of Apulia: it has 29 barrels and its registers can play an entire orchestra. An artistically carved wooden choir and numerous paintings of the Neapolitan school enrich the Cathedral. Other works, even older, gracefully and tastefully decorate the church. First of all, the elegant pulpit in carved stone, of about 1545, and then, about 1587, there is the nativity scene in stone depicting St. Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus, with the other characters of the Christmas tradition inside a natural cave, and outside the Magi and the shepherds. Author of the sculptures was the artist Altobello Persio. It is said that Frederick II had a treasure hidden in a column of the cathedral: the treasure would have came to light only when the cathedral had collapsed and would have served to rebuild it. Sources: Valentina Solimene  – wikipedia

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