Via Siracusa, 3, 74121 Taranto TA
Originally a Magna Graecia chamber tomb, perhaps reused in Roman times, the Crypt of the Redeemer is one of the most interesting and meaningful archaeological sites in Taranto.
The study of the structure, reused several times over the centuries, guaranteed to trace the various phases of interventions and changes in use.
The ancient underground room, almost certainly intended to house a burial and accessible through a dromos (corridor) of twelve steps, was reused by the religious as a place of Christian worship.
According to the tradition, a small group of monks of the Byzantine rite reused the ancient space far from the town as a place of prayer, modifying its structure with the insertion of the apse, creating (perhaps already in this phase) an opening to the nearby cave (characterized by the central well) and decorating the walls with some frescoes.
The pictorial palimpsest cycle, dated to the 12th century, responds to the aesthetic canons and symbolic choices typical of the time with the “Pantocrator Christ between St. Giovanni and the Virgin” in the apse and the processions of Saints on the side walls, among which it is easy to recognize “San Basilio” or “San Paolo” ,” Sant’Euplo ”and“ San Biagio ”or“ Santo Stefano ”.
The analysis of the interesting decorative apparatus has shown, below the layer of frescoes currently visible, the presence of an older phase that can probably be dated to the 11th century.
The underground religious complex was completed by the presence of a sub divo church dedicated to Santa Maria Murivetere, which was soon abandoned in the 13th century and transformed into an animal shelter. This area was eventually closed by Bishop Lelio Brancaccio in 1578.
The analysis of the structure and the presence of many graffiti signs along the walls of the access dromos return the image of a place of “pilgrimage” and devotion. The many engraved crosses, the words that are no longer legible or identifiable and the symbols of clear Christian reference testify the practice of the faithful and pilgrims of leaving a sign of their passage when visiting the place.
The graffiti depicting a small deer on the left jamb of the entrance door is valuable in its simplicity. Difficult to interpret and date, it could be a reference to the verse of the book of Psalms: “As the doe yearns for streams, so my soul yearns for you, Oh God” (Psalm, 42); it is, perhaps, a testimony of devotion linked to the presence of the well.
Lost in the oblivion of history and marginal in the urban events of the city, the crypt was rediscovered by the Tarantino archaeologist Luigi Viola in 1899, who named it “Crypt of the Redeemer”.
The Crypt of the Redeemer is strongly linked to the Petrine tradition of the city. According to the Historia Sancti Petri (10th century A.D.), the Apostle, after a stop on today’s Island of San Pietro, wanting to quench his thirst, headed towards the sacred place where there was a well near which stood, within a monumental complex, the statue of a pagan divinity (probably Zeus or Apollo).
Also, according to the story, when the Saint made the sign of the cross to dedicate the site to Giovanni Il Battista, the statue shattered to the amazement of those present, who converted to the new creed and were baptized with the water from the well in front of which the miracle had been accomplished.
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Via Siracusa, 3, 74121 Taranto TA
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