Cisternino is situated in
the Murge lowlands, in the province of Brindisi, 398 metres
above sea level.
Its founding is connected to the legend of the Greek hero
Diomedes, who returning home after Troy was taken, was not
recognised by its citizens or his family due to a spell placed
on him by Aphrodite who had previously been offended by him
during the war in Troy.
He therefore decided to leave for
Italy and founded many cities, among which, Andria, Brindisi,
Benevento and many others. Some travel companions arrived
with Diomedes, one of them being Sturnoi, founder of Cisternino.
Beyond mythology, the territory results as being inhabited
since the Bronze Age (III millennium-12th Century BC).
The City was known as Sturninum by the Romans, and was the
centre of war between the Carthaginians of Hannibal and the
Romans in 216 BC.
After a long period of pacification and development coinciding
with the Imperial Age (I Century BC – 5th Century AD)
the habitation was destroyed by the Goths of Alarico at the
beginning of 5th century AD.
Today’s habitation is the merit of some Basilian monks
( 8th Century – followers of San Basilio Magno), who
founded it with the name of Cis-sturnium, meaning beyond Sturnium,
and built the San Nicolò abbey on the same spot where
the today’s Matrix Church is situated.
In 1180, the village appeared in a papal bull, where it was
declared property of the Episcopal seat of Monopoli, which
was yielded in 1330, under the Angioini, to a noble from the
In 1463, Cisternino returned to the pontiff but, shortly after,
was conquered (1495) by the Republic of Venice, who resisted
until 1528, the year of Spanish conquest and election of Galeotto
Fonseca as Baron of Cisternino.
During the Bourbon Reign of Naples, which began in 1738, Cisternino
rose up against royal domination, and experienced a revolutionary
period, followed by the period of the French Republic of Naples
and the organisation of the Carbonari Motions (An association
which promoted independent ideas - 1820).
The historical centre of Cisternino is divided into four districts:
Bari Vecchia (Old Bari), Pantano, Li Signuredde and Isola.
One can visit the Medieval Norman-Swabian Tower (11th Century)
and the Mother Church of San Nicola of Mira (1150 approx),
built on the previously mentioned Abbey (8th Century).
The Renaissance style Palazzo Vescovile (Episcopal Building
- 1560), Palazzo del Governatore (16th Century) and the Pepe
and Cenci buildings, are also noteworthy.
Just outside the City, one can visit the Roman Chiesetta of
the Madonna of Ibernia (1100 approx).