Archeological Park of the Messapian Walls
The area of the Archeological Park of the Messapian Walls, large more or less 15 hectares, includes a great part of the remains of the defensive walls of the ancient town and more than 1000 graves dug in the rock, whose interpretation help us in understanding the greatness of the Messapian civilization of Manduria.
The defensive structure of the Messapian town were composed by three different level of concentric walls, which had different greatness and construction system. The inner circle (V century b.C.) has a perimeter of 2 Km and is composed by irregular blocks disposed by their heads, so that the width of the wall is the same of the length (2m) of the blocks; outside this first circle there is a ditch. The outer circle (III century b.C.), which contains the previous one, is 3Km long, and was built by a double series of blocks which allowed a width of 5 meters. Even in this circle there is the presence of an external ditch. A third wall was found during the excavations in 1955-60; this third wall is inside the first ditch of the inner circle and for this reason is generally considered as a reinforcement of this circle.
Outside the walls, along the north and eastern perimeter, a great number of graves were found: these graves composed the necropolis of the park. The rectangular shape of the grave, obtained from the shall send of the soil, which represents the natural geological layer of the site, can be homogeneous, more or less rubbed, or can shows a deeper central rectangular zone with, on the corners, for small water wells. Several graves present, even today, clear traces of the paintings who decorated their interiors: in the upper perimeter can be found traces of bans painted in alternate colors (red and cyan).
The sepulchers were generally covered by three more or less regularly shaped slabs which were kept together through a blocking system whose purpose was to improve their waterproof capacity. These sepulchers were framed by a regular decrease in the tuff surface, the so-called “controfossa”, which was used to delineate the grave area.
Saint Peter “Mandurino” Chapel (inside the Archeological Park)
The small church, on the north-western side of the park, is divided on two floors: the higher one is probably of the XIII century and presents a crypt of the VIII century. The lower floor, accessible through a staircase, seems to re-use a previous grave hall of Hellenistic-roman period: this chapel is full of saint hermits venerated by Brazilian monks. In the apse of the lower floor the fresco of Saint Peter Apostle can be admired.
“Fonte Pliniano” (inside the Archeological Park)
The name of “Fonte Pliniano” originated from Pliny the Elder who, having seen it himself or having had news about it from someone else, describe it in his “The Natural History” (Naturalis Historia). The water source is hidden inside a cave with a diameter of 18 meters which can be entered through a staircase. this enchanting place is surmounted, at the centre of the vault, by a large skylight; outside the skylight there is the representation of the coat of arms of Manduria: the almond tree inside a water well.
Chiesa Madre (Chiesa della SS. Trinità)
The main Church (“Chiesa Madre” or “Chiesa Matrice”) of Manduria, dedicated to the Holy Trinity (“S.S. Trinità”), stands over the ruins of a previous small Romanic church, whose only remains are the two lions which can be found outside the main entrance. The church which can be admired today is the result of the restoration works performed in the XVI and in the XVIII century.
The elevation of the building is characterized by the magnificent renaissance frontal door, fully decorated and closed by a wide rose window decorated with “putti” who hold cartouches and with decorations which represents vines and clusters of grapes.
The plant of the church (three naves which became five in XVIII century) is a Latin cross with two great chapels, the former dedicated to “San Gregorio Magno” (Gregory the Great), Patron saint of Manduria, the latter to the Holy Trinity. Near one of the columns of the central nave there is another important masterwork, a wonderful walnut pulpit, dated 1608, whose author is unknown. The greatness of the church is increased by the stairs which lead to the presbyterium with the apse decorated by 18 golden sculptures. Outside the church there is the “campanile” divided into five framed parts. The tower is full of small sculptures and masks: in the high part, between the third and fourth frame, can be seen the symbols of the four Evangelists: the angel (Saint Matthew), the lion (Saint Mark), the bull (Saint Luke), the eagle (Saint John).
The Cloister of the Piarists’ Abbey (present Town Hall)
The Abbey of the Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools (or, in short, Piarists) was built at the end of the XVII century. From 1885 is the seat of the Town Hall of Manduria. Near the Abbey was also built the Church of the Pious Schools, ended in 1740. The Piarists played an important role in the education of the youth of Casalnuovo for more than a century. The cloister and its architectural elegance can be admired inside the Abbey.
Imperiali Palace (present Filotico Palace)
The Imperiali Palace is the most important civic building of the town. It was built in the first half of the XVIII century, with the entrance facing the “Piazza Grande” (present “Piazza Garibaldi”) and contributed to change the urban structure of the town which continued to grow in the direction of the present “Corso XX Settembre”. The building was edified by Michele Imperiali, a nobleman of Genoa who, having acquired the fief of Francavilla, Oria, Avetrana and Manduria, decided to build at the centre of each of his properties a palace. The Manduria palace was edified as a hunting house probably by the architect Mauro Manieri from Lecce. It is divided in three different floors by a strong balcony, surrounded by an original iron banister. In the corners of its front facade we have two coats of arms framed by cartouches with the insignia of the Imperiali families. Inside the palace the typical atrium where the prince used to spend some time with his guests during the sunny summer evenings.
Opening time: the palace can be seen only outside as it is a private property
This suggestive monument represents the Holy Mountain where Jesus Christ has been crucified. It was built at the end of a religious mission of the missionary fathers linked to the cult of Calvary which took place in Manduria in 1839. Giuseppe Renato Greco was the author of the mosaic composed by fragments of mirrors, chinaware, dishware, crystals and shells which make this artwork so peculiar.
The fragments used for its construction are of different nature: majolica from Laterza, Martina Franca, Francavilla Fontana, Manduria, Aviano Irpino and Naples. Besides all the architectural elements which compose this unusual monument probably come from spare materials of presepios (a very followed tradition in Manduria) created by churches and abbeys of the region. However, all the ceramics used by Giuseppe Renato Greco during the creation of his Calvary can be dated between XVI and XIX century.
Church of Saint Francis of Assisi
The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, completed in the XVII century, is characterized by a two floors front facade, divided by Corinthian lesenas ending with the typical capital. Inside the church the apse, decorated with 18 different busts created by an unknown sculptor from Naples. The characteristic altar crucifix, created by the Franciscan wood carver friar Angelo da Pietrafitta, was part of a wider composition: the remains of this composition are two statues representing the Madonna and Saint John which can be found in the side niches near the presbyterium. The church also preserves a great number of Christian Relics, extracted from the busts around the presbyterium. Near the church there is the Franciscan friars Abbey, with a cloister of the XV century.
Chuch of Saint Mary of Constantinople
The Chuch of Saint Mary of Constantinople was built between 1664 and 1718 near the Convent of the Augustinians (XVII century). The church’s front facade is divided in two floors; its magnificent and impressive dome, externally covered by polychrome majolicas, seems to be there to defend the whole town. Inside, a Latin cross classical scheme with a wide transept, a great number of paintings and frescoes of the XVIII century are visible.
Porta Naples (Arch Saint Angel)
Porta Naples, present Porta or Arch Saint Angel, was edified during the seiniory of Michael III, in 1678. The Porta was so called because it led to the capital Naples through Taranto. It allowed a straight passage towards “Porta Grande” (present “Piazza Garibaldi”), giving to the western entrance of the town a new and more attractive perspective. On the top of the Porta we have the statues who, at that time, represented the patron saints of Manduria: Virgin Mary, Saint Gregory, Saint Charles Borromeo. Under the statue of the Madonna, at the centre of the arch, there is the coat of arms of the town.