Valle d'Itria

Martina Franca, the baroque pearl of the Murgia dei Trulli

Text translated by Google translate.

The medieval origins of Martina Franca are hidden, to the unsuspecting visitor, by the scenographic and refined eighteenth-century architectural forms that dominate the old city.

Built on two hills, the city was founded in the thirteenth century, when on the western hill, the current Vico Montedoro, there was already a Castrum Martinae, a small castle perhaps with few houses around it. On the opposite hill, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Franca Martina founded by the Prince of Taranto Philip I of Anjou rose that with a privilege dated 12 August 1310 made the new inhabited free village, exempt from paying tithes in perpetuity. Other privileges were granted over the years so as to attract many people scattered on the hills around the new demic center. The increase in population made it necessary to transform the of Casale Martina (in the Middle Ages an unfortified city) into Terra, i.e. a fortified city with towers, gates and a moat and in 1338 a castle was built.

The dream of the citizens of Martina to depend on the state without a feudal lord (free village) did not last long. In fact in the fourteenth century in Martina periods of feudal power alternated with state power. A feudal power that was strengthened in the following centuries with games of alliances between feudal lords and some enterprising local families who were able, to the detriment of the community, to appropriate the ancient Terre Universali (universal lands) precious for agro-forestry-pastoral exploitation. So, over the centuries,
several feudal families ruled the city, from the Del Tocco, the first feudal lords of Martina, to the Del Balzo Orsini, among the most
powerful Apulian families up to the Caracciolo family, with whom Martina became a duchy from 1507 to 1806, the year in which feudalism was abolished.

Today few remains of the medieval city remain. Something of the urban layout, the bell tower of the Mother Church, the city towers, some toponyms and many words of dialectal language. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the emergence of Baroque and Rococo art respectively. It was especially in the eighteenth century that the city underwent an architectural renewal also following the structural damage caused by the earthquake of 1743 which affected the entire Terra d'Otranto (the territory between the current provinces of Taranto, Brindisi and Lecce). Many buildings were demolished and rebuilt, especially the most important churches.

This is the case of the old Romanesque collegiate church dedicated to the patron saint Martino of Tours, which was rebuilt in its current Baroque forms with the imposing and dizzying facade; today the church is Basilica. This was the case of the conventual churches extramoenia and intramoenia, whose remote past is recognizable in the cloisters and adjacent convents. Above all, civil architecture was affirmed, with elegant buildings adorned with Rococo decorations made by skilled artisans. Among the civil architecture, the most imposing is undoubtedly the Ducal Palace of the Caracciolo dukes, built in the most interesting stylistically parts between the 17th and 18th centuries after the demolition of the old Orsini del Balzo castle. The Mannerist palace for monumentality and style is the exaltation of the power of the Caracciolo dukes over the city. In the Piano Nobile of the palace it is possible to admire on the walls the tempera paintings of the eighteenth century by the Francavillese painter Domenico Carella who, inspired by the great artistic signatures, reproduces in rococo style biblical, courteous and mythological scenes, themes then painted in many noble palaces of the city.

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