November 14, 2017
(I wrote two separate posts for Matera, on different days. This is clearly another sign that I am losing my mind. I am going to post this one as well because the photos are different and I think, in some ways better!).
When I went to university way back in the dark ages, I wanted to study English and History. Words inspired me and the ideas of where we came from and how that made us behave was important to me. (Today we have behavioural economics, I still love that topic too). For 25 years I have been marginally interested in history and always reading history, and some of my favourite books involve alternate theories about people.
Today I discovered Matera. I had never heard of it before. It is not a word or place in my vocabulary and I am sorry for that now. The Chauvet Cave paintings (dating back about 32000 years) in France get a lot of attention, but Matera is spectacular despite only being about 9000 years old. Today, people continue to live in the cave homes in Matera. In any case, Jinhee and I visited and were awed.
The city is built into the mountain, and while there are modern conveniences today, it is just beautiful and incredible to look at.
The town has many churches, and while some are of the modern variety, three are caves with remarkable frescoes from about 1000 years ago (some are only 300 or 400 years old). I am not a religious scholar so I simply appreciated the age and preservation of these pieces. They clearly show that the Christians have been building their faith here for a very long time.
As mentioned, the town is still inhabited and in fact it is packed with interesting bits. Jinhee had her best experience yet with a tourist office (a very helpful English speaking person who provided excellent information!). We had a great lunch at a local eatery, the ‘modern’ cathedral was beautiful and the museum was actually very well done.
While we knew about caves built into mountains in the Middle East and the cave paintings in France and Australia, I think the big surprise is that we had never heard of this place and it was amazing. We had a great day despite the cold and rain!