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Old Mottola

Widespread hotel and suite in the historic center of Mottola

The History of the Village

The oldest archaeological reports on the Mottola hill, random and without precise discovery data, relate to a storage room of bronzes dating back to the end of the Bronze Age-beginning of the Iron Age (12th-11th century BC) today preserved in the archaeological museum of Taranto.

Around the middle of the 4th century BC , a period of strong Hellenization of the Apulian territory due to the cultural and political influence of the nearby Spartan colony of Taranto, an oppidum was built on the hill and was equipped with a powerful double curtain wall built using the of Greek type, while at the foot of it there is evidence of numerous necropolises and small farms.

With the arrival of the Romans and the capture of Taranto , the hilltop settlement was abandoned, while the surrounding area continued to be inhabited with small and medium-sized farms and villas.

We had to wait until the 8th century to have evidence of occupation of the hill again, this time through the annotation of the name MOTVLA on a historical document in the Lombard period. In medieval times the city perched on a smaller defensive ring within the Greek age walls, building new fortifications starting from the 11th century along the perimeter marked by the current Via Muraglie, Mazzini and Piazza Plebiscito.

Mottola was endowed by Rayca, a Saracen mercenary in the pay of the Byzantine leader Basil Boiannes , with a castle as early as 1023, which was probably later restored and modified by the Normans and later by the Swabians. A small peasant village developed around the castle which was enriched, in the following centuries, with some important religious buildings: in 1198 the Cathedral and subsequently the Bishop's Palace, in the Angevin period the chapel of San Giacomo, the church of Mater Domini Antiqua, the chapel of Santa Maria della Vetera.

At the same time, in the area surrounding the hill, starting from the end of the year 1000, there was a boom in rock farmhouses. Already during the Byzantine age, Puglia was populated by small Italian-Greek monasteries, many of which were rock-built, which were used by the Norman conquerors, in full agreement with the Roman Church, for the "re-Catholicisation" of the Apulian countryside, profoundly marked by the political, theological and cultural of Byzantium.

The most effective instrument in the work of religious and political re-Latinization is represented by the work of the great Benedictine abbeys of southern Italy (Montecassino, Cava dei Tirreni, Venosa), to which the Norman princes donated many of those rural churches and monasteries, contributing to the economic and civil development of the countryside and their full return to the Western cultural, cultural and political sphere. In fact, the farmhouses and villages that repopulated these lands between the High and Late Middle Ages were organized around a good number of these rock places of worship.

The rock churches of Mottola, defined as the " cave of God ", preserve more or less consistent remains of the original set of wall frescoes, often painted on palimpsest layers re-frescoed several times in subsequent periods, in a time span ranging from the 9th to the 15th century . The decorative influence of Byzantium is very strong, even in the centuries following its political expulsion from the lands of Puglia, particularly in the sacred representations which here are above all devotional icons of saints. On the other hand, other pictorial subjects typical of the oriental tradition abound such as Christ in Deesis, the Virgins with Child in the various versions Odighitria, Glycophilousa, Nicopeia, Galaktotrophousa, etc.

The transition to the modern era in the 16th century under the Aragonese saw the development of the baronage and a long period of decadence and demographic decline that included the entire 17th century. However, we must point out, during the 1500s, the expansion in the EW direction of the Cathedral church, the construction of the small church of the Annunziata and of the Madonna of Constantinople at the foot of the hill.

During 1600, if the territory was now under the stable management of the Caracciolo family , the Mottolese episcopate experienced a profound crisis with the alternation of numerous prelates and the attempt to transfer the headquarters to Massafra . Despite everything, a certain liveliness can be seen in religious buildings with the construction of the new convent near the extra moenia church of Santa Maria della Vetera, of the Rosario chapel.

A precious document from 1653, the Apprezzo del fiefdom of Tavolario Onofrio Tango, gives us important information on the hill in this period: the urban center appears to have developed around the Castle , characterized by mostly earthen dwellings with a few long single-storey houses narrow and winding streets. Furthermore, it can be seen that our historic center during the 1600s was divided into districts, or "pittagi" called Chiesa, Santa Lucia, San Giacomo, Fornello, Purgatorio, Schiavonia.

During the 18th century the town experienced a phase of relative prosperity above all thanks to the strengthening of the agricultural-pastoral economy wanted by the Caracciolos. The parallel increase in population in the narrow spaces of the urban center causes the construction of new religious buildings either outside the walls or in strict adherence to the perimeter of the walls (the church of Purgatory). Furthermore, again in the religious sphere, the embellishment of the Cathedral church is recorded with the commission of the canvas of the Assumption to Count Malinconico and the altar of the Blessed Sacrament.

Only during the 19th century did the construction of new neighborhoods begin outside the original perimeter of the medieval walls, giving rise to the new city village. Between 1881 and 1887 the new monumental Municipal Palace was built while the prisons, the police headquarters, the post office and the telegraph were transferred to the former Franciscan convent.

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