Situated on the Murgia plateau
of Taranto, Massafra is also known by the name of Tebaide
d’Italia, due to numerous Rupestrian settlements present
in the Karst formation caves throughout the territory.
Its territory was inhabited since Neolithic times, as demonstrated
by the Dolmen of Accetta and during the entire Bronze Age.
During the pre-Roman era, there should have already been habitation
in the territory, but concrete evidence re Massafra appears
in history only around the 5th Century AD, with the arrival
of the North African Christian community who were escaping
due to the arrival of the Vandals. These refugees settled
in the caves, giving life to the well documented Rupestrian
After an initial Byzantine period (6th Century), the City
became a Longobard settlement (7th Century) and seat of a
“Gastaldato” (administrative office of the Reign).
During the 10th Century, the suburb became part of a conflict
between the Byzantines and the Longobards, which concluded
only with the rise of Norman power. In this period, there
were also frequent Saracen raids over the entire territory
During 1085, it was the Norman Riccardo Senescalco, a noble
of Massafra and Dragone of Altavilla’s son, who ordered
that the City be fortified and the Castle built. This castle
was subsequently often frequented by the Swabian Emperor,
Federick II and Bianca Lancia, mother of the future King Manfredi.
The arrival of the Angioini in the South (1266) saw Massafra
assigned as a feudatory to Oddone of Soliac, who governed
it badly and was subsequently removed by Carlo II of Angiò
Under the Angiò’s, there were various feudatories,
among which the Sanseverino Family and the Del Balzo Orsini.
In 1484, Antonio Pisciello became Baron of Massafra, under
the Reign of the Aragonese, now owners of Southern Italy.
These were succeeded by the Pappacoda’s in 1497, under
which Massafra saw a period of architectural and economic
In 1633, the Carmignano Family acquired the feudatory from
the Pappacoda’s for 110 thousand ducats and at the end
of the century, Massafra passed to the Imperiali’s,
who kept it until the abolition of feudal rights by Bonaparte
Republican ideals, brought from France with the decline of
Napoleon in 1799, allowed Italy to live a revolutionary period
called the Renaissance, an important period which led to the
formation of the Reign of Italy in 1861.
During the First World War, Massafra housed many Italian soldiers
in departure to the Albanese front.
Massafra is crowded with interesting cultural places and offers
numerous and diverse ideas to visit, beginning with the Castle
(970), later modified by the Normans, Angioini and Aragonese,
which faces the caves of San Marco. It is, however, the churches
which govern the visit: A visit to the caves should definitely
not be missed, as they contain an uninterrupted testimony
from Neolithic to Byzantine eras. It is impossible to name
all of them, but we would like to highlight the Candelora,
S. Anthony and S. Leonardo crypts.
Among the more interesting religious buildings: the Sanctuary
of the Madonna of the Scala, the S. Lucia Church and the Baroque
San Benedetto Church.