Chiesa della Madonna Delle VerginiOctober 14 in Italy
Our next stop was going to be a lookout so we could get a full view of the Sassi di Matera from across the gully. However, due to poor directions, from me and the GPS, we actually turned too soon and ended up following a dirt road to the end which still gave us an great view of Matera, if it hadn't been so foggy and overcast. We had actually driven into the Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera, Parco della Murgia Materana. The park is a rocky highland littered with grottoes inhabited since the Paleolithic era, some that were transformed into rupestrian (rock-cut) churches in medieval times. It is a Unesco World Heritage site since 1993, and is also where Mel Gibson has shot the "Crucifixion" in the movie "The Passion of the Christ".
There are about one hundred and fifty sites of worship that, in part, compose the Park of Rupestrian Churches of Matera, and many are dispersed throughout the surrounding territory. The Park extends over 8000 hectares and is also the location of numerous housing allotments dating back to the Paleolithic Era.
The church of the Madonna delle Vergini was located just a short walk from where the road ended. It is a small chapel that is the only one among the rock churches to still be open to worship and it is also the destination of a large pilgrimage on the last Sunday of May, on the occasion of the feast of the Virgin.
It has a very simple masonry façade with five niches; in the upper part, rebuilt at the end of the last century, there is a larger niche that houses a statue of the Madonna with Child created by a local craftsman. The whole church has been carved into the rock and it would have been great to see but unfortunately it was closed.
Wandering around the hillside and glimpsing temple remains below, walking through caves that were believed to be inhabited over 2.5 million years ago was pretty amazing. It was a brief stop but another one I enjoyed.Read more