The Purgatory Church: an inevitable stopover when visiting Matera

Located at the end of the popular “Via Ridola”, The Purgatory Church is one of the most particular in the town of Matera.  It was built in the first half of 1700 and it is impossible not to recognize it when walking along the main street of the town centre.  In fact, the façade represents the theme of Death and Redemption of the Souls: therefore, skulls and angels are the main and principal decorations of the façade.

It is a very particular church with a Baroque-style architecture.  The lower part of the façade is very evocative where it is possible to find a huge front door:  This is made up of 36 panels: in the upper part there are skulls representing prelates and rulers, whereas in the lower part there are the skulls belonging to normal citizens.  This door represents the fact that men are all equal after death.  The façade is also enriched with a statue representing the Virgin and the Infant Jesus: the statue is located in a niche in the upper-central part of the façade, so that it seems to dominate the whole structure.

The inside structure has the shape of a Greek cross and there are three altars surmounted by a wooden octagonal cupola.  Although it is not so huge, the inside of the church strikes visitors for its artistic beauty which is well combined with a wisely created play of light.  Here visitors can also enjoy some amazing and valuable canvasses, in particular Francesco Oliva‘s eight masterpieces representing the scenes of the Passion of Christ are worthy to be admired.  Skulls and evocative writings can also be found in the church, namely on the four inner doors.

Just out of curiosity: it is called the “Church of the New Purgatory” because once the Purgatory Church was located in the Sasso Caveoso district.  That location wasn’t very easy to reach, especially for believers.  As a result, bishops decided to move the church to the new part of the town, in Via Ridola, where it is currently located: now it is visited by thousands of tourists every year, not only for its beauty but also for its strategic location.


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