The Land

 

Gravina in Puglia

IN THE DISTRICT OF BARI, WITH 45.000 INHABITANTS

Located 350 m above the sea level and about 60 km far from Bari with southern border to the near Basilicata.

It is located between the Lucan pre-Apennine mountains and the Murgia plateau. Part of the town extends on the banks of a deep ravine, very similar to canyons, dug into the calcareous rock by the river Gravina, a tributary of the river Bradano, from which the famous Murgia ravines derive their name, in an land marked by the presence of numerous karst cavities , like Pulicchio.
The "Difesa Grande" municipal forest extends 6 km from the town; it is one of the most important wooded complexes in Puglia, being a site of public importance.
Gravina is also one of the 13 towns included in the territory of the High-Murgia National Park (the headquarters of the Park are in the town itself); it’s a huge area of 68,077 hectares marked by the presence of a karst territory and a powerful nature which have undergone the anthropic work over the centuries, but always respectful of sites.
Masserie, jazzi, neviere, dry stone walls stand out in a land that offers one of the most incredible varieties of fauna and plant species.

A VERY OLD HISTORY

THE TOWN OF GRAVINA AND ITS ANCIENT HISTORY
 
The town of Gravina has an ancient history. In fact, there are numerous archaeological finds that testify how the first settlements were already in the ancient Paleolithic in the 5th millennium BC. The favourable geographical position, the richness of the area and the availability of water throught the river Gravina were certainly ideal for the settlement; men lived in perfect symbiosis with the surrounding environment.
Between the 8th and the 4th century Gravina (which was part of Peucezia, an ancient region under the control of Iapigi together with Daunia in the north and Messapia in the south) lives a period of cultural and economic wealth thanks to the increase of its relations with the Greek world of the nearby Taranto. Its name becomes Sidion, it surrounds itself with protective walls and produced its own coins called Sidinon (ΣI Δ I N Ω N). In 305 BC it is conquered by the Romans that turned its name from Sidion into Silvium and made of it it an important agricultural and commercial town due to its position on the Appian Way.
The Vandals guided by Genserico destroyed the town in 456 and the inhabitants took refuge in the caves next to the river Gravina, giving life to a Rupestrian Civilization thus outlining the urban evolution of the town that will go on with buildings in the medieval and then Renaissance neighbourhoods. The population settled in the rock cavities dug into the limestone walls next to the river Gravina according to a natural architecture. This rocky landscape is animated by a simple life; then, it developed in the neighbourhoods of Fondovito and Piaggio (in the early Middle Ages), and finally, with the Normans, populating that plain (Civitas) that represented the medieval urban core. The Orsinian bridge-aqueduct was built to connect the two banks of the river (mid-18th century) which leads water from the Sant'Angelo Spring up to the town walls.

 
With the fall of the Western Roman Empire Gravina follows the events of the whole Italy, first through the domain of Odoacre (the Goth kingdom), finally, at the beginning of the 5th century, the re-conquest of the Empire by Justinian. After the massacre carried out by the Saracens in 999 with the destruction of the inhabited area (both the plain of Botromagno and the edge of the ravine), the population moved to the underlying ravine, where other habitations were added to the pre-existing caves.
In 1069 the town became a feud of the Normans under the Count Humphrey of Hauteville who turned it into a county and, in order to restore the dignity of the ancient bishop's seat, built the Cathedral
Afterwards, the town was elevated to Marquisate and Frederick II commissioned the Florentine architect Fuccio to design and build a castle for birding, the ruins of which still remain today. The same Frederick II appointed the town at the head of the Justiciarship of Bari, thus becoming on the most important towns in Puglia for its wealth and natural beauties. Under the Swabians the town is elevated to the dignity of seat of the General Curia of Puglia and Basilicata. Frederick II will define Gravina as "garden of delights". Then the townt passes under the Angevins and lives a period of great economic development; in particular, Charles II of Anjou in 1294 established the annual Saint George Fair, which is still among the oldest exhibition in Italy and represents an important economic meeting for the promotion of agricultural and artisanal products.

Modern History

IN 1423 GRAVINA IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE ORSINI FAMILY WHO RULED UNTIL 1816
 

In 1650 the town gave birth to Pietro Francesco Orsini, son of Duke Ferdinand III Orsini Aragon and Giovanna della Tolfa, who was elevated to the papal throne with the name of Pope Benedict XIII; this Pope held the Jubilee of 1725 and is still remembered for the construction of the Trinità dei Monti stairway in Rome, the foundation of the University of Camerino, the creation of special benefits for farmers (monti frumentari).

The Orsini family assured Gravina administrative stability and a strong economic and cultural impulse. They enriched the town with many buildings, which would later become famous and unique monuments such as the bridge-viaduct over the river Gravina, the Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio (or Purgatory), a monumental Fountain, the Orsini Palace in Republic Square and so on.
During the Bourbon period, being increased persecutions and violated the basic human rights, Gravina had many revolutionaries and patriots from 1789 until the Italian Unification, including carbonari. Protagonist of the historical events of the late 19th and early 20th century, the town contributes a lot to the national unification with patriots and martyrs died during the Wars of Independence and the First World War.

In the Municipal Square a War Memorial was dedicated to them.
During the Second World War the town was partly damaged by the bombing of German aircraft.

GRAVINA TODAY

THE TOWN IS TODAY RICH IN MONUMENTS AND CHURCHS
Gravina is today a town full of monuments and churches, highly esteemed from a cultural point of view, offering the visitor a truly beautiful view thanks to rock churches and various works of art, the archaeological area of Botromagno, the typical products of the food industry, sport, folklore and cultural events as well as the enchanting scenery of its natural landscape with "Difesa Grande" Municipal Forest and the High-Murgia Park.

For more information visit www.iatgravina.it, www.sguardirupestri.it, www.gravinainmurgia.it
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