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Matera: The Power of Endurance and Faith

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Matera, a city in the province of Matera, is in the Basilicata region of southern Italy. This extraordinary place is known as the “Underground City.” In 2019, Matera was declared a European Capital of Culture. In our time together today, we take the opportunity to discover the city’s Sassi, the Rupestrian Churches, as well as the cisterns. Rulers from outside have come and gone, but Matera has remained due to its special geographic features and the endurance of its people. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the grottos of Matera were inhabited by Benedictine and Basilian monastic orders. Both orders were well known for their strict rules and humble way of life and by their ascetic and meditative practices. They created cave paintings that can be seen today. The famous Park of the Rupestrian Churches is one of their best legacies. Stretching across some 8,000 hectares, it includes many rupestrian, or rock-hewn, churches and monasteries dating back throughout the history of the Christian Church. Some are small, basic caves with a simple altar, while others are ornately decorated and may have frescos, while still others are complex cave networks with large chambers used by the Christian monks for meditation and prayer. Today, many old cisterns have been converted into houses, complete with all the modern facilities. Warm in winter and fresh in summer, the water collectors of yesterday are the comfortable houses today. Prior to the 1950s, there were 18,000 to 20,000 inhabitants. Matera currently has a population of over 60,000 people. As stated earlier, Matera has known all the ages of human civilization and, as such, it has developed its own cultural traditions. The people lived in tough conditions and built a city protected by its geography and architecture. They were and are a very hard-working people. The Sassi of Matera are a geographical space that has been made into history.
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