The Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate rises immersed in an incredible landscape of olive groves, fruit trees and cultivated areas, probably between the late eleventh and early twelfth century.
THE HISTORY OF THE ABBEY
Behind the building of this structure, as typical of Apulia, there are many legends and traditions that, handed down from father to son, seem to attest that the Abbey was founded by the Norman king Tancredi d’Altavilla, after having seen the Madonna herself chasing a deer in a cave. The most accredited thesis, however, wants its construction at the behest of Boemondo d’Altavilla, son of Robert Guiscardo, to give the Greek monks fleeing from the persecutions of Byzantium a quiet place in which to find protection and refuge.
Regardless of who really had it built, what is certain is that the Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate is an incredible jewel almost hidden in the Salento countryside which, after years of abandonment, has returned to shine in its own light thanks to the Province of Lecce which, since 1965, has transformed this place into a museum and a center for folk and traditional research.
AFTER THE RESTORATION
The church, entirely in Romanesque style, consists of a rose window on the external facade, its monocupispidal elevation allows the visitor to imagine the internal division of the building. The entrance inside the structure is sanctioned by a thirteenth-century portal on which are depicted religious scenes such as the Visit of Saint Elizabeth and the Annunciation of the Virgin. To make the Abbey even more interesting there is certainly the colonnade of the portico, also dating back to the thirteenth century and consisting of columns with cylindrical and polygonal trunks that are surmounted by capitals decorated in different ways.
Going to the place, now managed by the Italian Environmental Fund FAI, it will be possible, through a guided tour of about 60 minutes, to know all the many wonders of this structure, which deserve to be discovered inch by inch. Not to be missed is the history of the underground oil mill.
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