One of the peculiarities that the land of Bari offers us is the presence of medieval cathedrals so consistent and nourished as to constitute the dominant theme for a fascinating itinerary. Along the Strada dei Vini Doc Castel del Monte, we are lucky enough to meet three of the most beautiful cathedrals offered by the Apulian Romanesque style. Our itinerary starts from the heart of the historic center of Andria, where the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta is located. Its history is full of charm.
It is said that to consecrate it as a Catholic temple, it was St. Peter, who after converting the city, would have consecrated the pre-existing Italic temple as the first place of Catholic worship. The structure of the Cathedral is Norman, but the current appearance is the result of several renovations, for example the portico formed by three arches on stone pillars is in the neoclassical style. To the left of the facade stands the bell tower, at the top of which is a copper rooster that symbolizes St. Peter.
Walking along the three naves towards the transept we see the Chapel of San Riccardo, which houses the bones of the patron saint of the city. Behind the main altar is one of the holiest places in the city: it is the chapel that houses the relic of the Holy Thorn, the largest thorn in the crown that Jesus wore on the cross. Under the presbytery there is a small early Christian crypt, a very intimate and suggestive environment characterized by two naves with arches on columns, some with original capitals. The Cathedral of Andria was a place particularly dear to Frederick II of Swabia, so much so that he had two of his wives, Isabella of England and Jolanda of Brienne, buried.
A few kilometers separate the cathedral of Andria from that of Ruvo di Puglia and you could go through the country roads to enjoy the beautiful surrounding nature. The Cathedral of the Assumption is a wonderful testimony of the Middle Ages.
The Church is located in the historic center, in a semicircular square surrounded by a dense maze of streets and houses.
The building, completed in the thirteenth century, lies perfectly between the Apulian Romanesque and the Swabian Gothic. The profile of the church is characterized by a particularly sloping roof and by a facade in stone material on which three portals with three false arches on columns open. The central portal is richly decorated along the jambs and the cornice with figures that recall nature and human features. Figures of fantastic animals have been placed guarding the church: stylophores, lions and griffins. In the highest part of the façade there are a mullioned window and a large rose window, probably from the Renaissance.
To complete the external walls there are the characteristic hanging arches, accompanied by images such as bearded and bearded male faces, heads of real and fantastic animals, comic and dramatic masks, crowned male and female heads. The interior of the church is divided into three naves and three high apses open at the bottom, visible from the outside. Internally we find the rich sculptural repertoire already anticipated on the facade. Rarely do we find such a vast figurative repertoire deployed within the Apulian churches that it makes the Ruvo Cathedral one of the most beautiful pearls of Puglia.
Reaching the Cathedral of Trani is very simple, just let yourself be carried away by the scent of the sea and in the blink of an eye we will find ourselves in front of the most beautiful and celebrated building of the Apulian Romanesque.The Cathedral, dedicated to San Nicola Pellegrino, stands in a splendid square on the sea where the main façade looks towards the Swabian Castle, while the apses face the suggestive harbor. Sunset is the best time to enjoy the spectacle of the cathedral illuminated by the warm light of the sun reflected on the white stone of the facade; in a magical play of light and shadow, all the decorations and the rose window seem embroidered on a white cloth. The cornice placed at the top is a splendid figurative repertoire of the Apulian Gothic. The lateral sides of the Cathedral are narrowed by a tight succession of blind arches that invites us to proceed towards the sea.
The main facade is introduced by a double ramp that leads to a gallery with a splendid main portal; it is a true unicum of the Romanesque for the complexity of the figures carved on the jambs.
The interior of the church is divided into three naves by particular pairs of columns that support round arches, the grandeur of the structure leaves you breathless. The wooden truss roof accompanies us towards the transept and under the transept we can discover the suggestive crypt wanted to house the body of San Nicola, an environment punctuated by 28 slender columns that support the cross vaults.
But such beauty must be discovered live! Describing all the richness present in the Apulian Romanesque cathedrals is extremely complex, because only with the eyes you can grasp the splendor of the forms, the clarity of the stone, the admirable fusion between nature and human will that make these buildings one of the peaks of the art.