Author: Staff Kroplus
Author: Staff Kroplus Translator: Irene Mirizzi
Either you travel the Appian Way from Altamura to Laterza, or that you come from the opposite direction, Jesce Farmhouse appears in all its massive bulk, cashed in a small depression of the land placed at the feet of that course natural stone called Murgia Catena. Its site, rich of ancient ruins and of conspicuous remains of the Appian Way, was remembered in 1745 by Francesco Maria Pratilli, a studious that traveled on feet and by horse the whole way of “regina viarum” (Queen of ways)from Rome to Brindisi. He wrote thus: “In distanza di circa a miglia dodeci da Gravina si truova una nobil villa dei signori Mari di Altamura che Iesce vien chiamata, presso la quale chiare vestigia appariscono dell’antica selciata”. (“Twelve miles far from Gravina there is the noble villa of the Maris from Altamura called Jesce, clear ruins appear from the ancient cobblestones”) The pity of the ancient inhabitants of the farmhouse and of its owners led to the creation of a place of ritual that in the fourteenth and seventeenth century was enriched by frescoes that testify the religiousness of that laborious rural community, that lived that place since the far fourth century b.C. Jesce’s zone is situated about 10 km far from Altamura, along the provincial that unites Altamura to Laterza, to the edges of the ancient Appian Way that, coming from Gravina, crosses in that way the territory of Altamura. The zone corresponds to the place in which in ancient times rose the centre of Sublupatia mentioned by the Itinerario Antonino and by the Tabula Peutingeriana. It was one of the many vici inhabited, scattered around that hill on which in the Middle Ages Altamura would be born. Evident ruins of the ancient inhabited are not remained, but the archaeological investigations lead to the finding of numerous ceramic fragments and weight for loom, that testifies a human presence and an intense activity done without big interruptions from the fourth to the second century b.C. and continued, even if in smaller character for all the Middle Ages. In the immediate proximity three necropolis that are positioned chronologically between the fifth and the third century b.C. raise. What strikes the tourist is the manor farm. Made of massive installation of tuff, rendered even more majestic thanks to central arches and by powerful buttresses, the building is situated plumb in relation to the Appian Way to the street that links it to Murgia Catena. For this position, the eastern corner of the construction received two pensile watchtower, posed on the first floor. The construction reveals several architectural steps: the original nucleus is composed of a central hall positioned on the first floor on which was overheaded the noble floor in the end of the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century the eastern wing was realized and, even successively, the western wing. The ground floor is characterized by the thickness of the walls and for the presence of locations used as stables, safekeepings, accommodations for the farmers. You can enter the superior floor through a ladder. Here all the locations are linked among them and their function is easily recognizable. Remarkable for the largeness are the kitchen, with a fireplace that is surmounted by a big cape and the room with the gavetto vault supplied of lunette , and decorated by the emblem of the family de Mari, owner of the farmhouse in the seventeenth century. A few metres far from the manor farm and linked to this from a subterranean tunnel, there is the crypt, that establishes an element of continuity between the rocky settlement and the constructions under the wide open sky (sub divo). Presents two inlets that have the function of little lateral chapel and as a shape rudely rectangular. The vault, flat, is composed of the tufaceous stone, while the anterior part is a barrel vault. The walls are completely frescoed. You can enter the subterranean Church through a wide dromos, that ends in front of the simple lined facade, on which there is the portal composed of a rounded arch intrados and by an ogival arch extrados, on which there are a window and a recess, that times ago hosted a small statue of the archangel Michael and a recess, now posed on a side of the manor farm. Two cycles of frescoes, realized in different times, cover the internal walls of the crypt. The first confirms the survival and the lingering in the rocky apulian painting of the fourteenth-fifteenth century of the forms of the figurative Grecian art, but also influences post-Byzantines. The second, of modest invoice, celebratory of the life of Christ and of Virgin, testimonies the religiousness of the little rural community of this place in the seventeenth century, but also the echoes of a classicism of manner that, near to Christian elements, puts mythological recalls connected to Febo, Latona and Minerva.
Thanks to the kind concession of the ABMC of Altamura represented by the President, the teacher Giuseppe Pupillo The last 5 pictures are brought by “Insediamenti Rupestri of Altamura” The illustrated catalogue of the exhibition organised by the C.R.S.E.C. in the 1982.