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HISTORY AND CULTURE

In the Middle Age Apulia and its Mediterranean harbors seems to be the historical economical political centre of the lands of South Italy. In 1200 the Swabians: the Emperor Henry VI, then his son Frederick II and as last Manfred. They passed through Apulia and soon loved this land, so decided to stop here forever. In particular Frederick II. He was named “puer Apuliae”, that is Son of Apulia. In facts, he was, at the age of 26 yet Holy Roman Emperor, a kingdom that included the lands from Sicily to Germany, and Apulia was one of his land. The sings of his passage through our region are still today visible. Cities and Castles have been preserved, quite all, during the centuries.
He came to Apulia in 1221 for the fi rst time and stopped in the Gargano. There is nothing left of one of the most opulent buildings of Frederick II, located in Foggia, except its lintel (door frame).
In Lucera, considered the Guardian of the Tavoliere plain, he built a big Palatium, its only visible part is now the square plan. Its terrace was an octagon instead. The castle was equipped with every kind of comfort and it was inhabited by the Saracens.
They were a real colony that Frederick II brought with him from Sicily: they were able craftsmen, stone-cutters, great peasants and experts in land reclamation.
There was also a Mosque which doesn’t exist anymore.

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Then there is also the Castle, restored by Charles I of Anjou, with its long walls, its 22 square towers . In Apricena, on the sacred mountain of Gargano, there was a manor house, but nothing remains of this hunting residence. In Monte Sant’Angelo the castle guards the Gargano area and the houses of the ancient quarter called Junno, with their lined up roofs sinking into the rocks and the olive groves. The whole castle can be visited, Frederick’s influence is visible here, he had particular care of this castle, in the communication trenches, in the corridors, armories and windows. In Vieste he built in 1240 a “regia fortress” to defend the Adriatic Sea.
A real masterpiece is Castel del Monte. You can see it from far away, dominating a never-ending landscape from Gargano to the entire Capitanata, it is the symbol of the Empire power. It has a perfect octagonal crown with eight towers and an internal courtyard.
Enigmatic and unreal, Castel del Monte stands out fascinating and impenetrable, looking at it the visitors feel wonder and amazement. Frederick usually used to built castles, but in Altamura he even wanted a cathedral. It is the only wanted by him and it is one of the four Imperial Basilicas in Apulia. It was created not only for devotion to the Virgin Mary, but also with a precise political and religious aim, that of unifying different populations, cultures and faiths. Altamura was his town, and its “claustri” (cloisters) testify the presence of the Emperor and they were used by him to meet Greeks, Arabs and Jewish. In Barletta we find the royal palace, here was the place where in 1228 he organized the fifth Crusade. In the Castle of Bari, the typical signs of Frederick’s architecture with the rough-cut stone, are the corner towers. In a memorial tablet is told that here Frederick organized a meeting with Saint Francis from Assisi. It is also told that the king, doubtful of the Saint’s holy qualities, tried to tempt him by offering lavish banquets, a comfortable bed and some young ladies... all the attempts were useless, because he rejected them all.
So Frederick understood in Saint Francis’ sanctity. In Frederick’s art coexist different styles, he built and restored more than 25 palaces, residences and castles only in Apulia. We could enlarge our list, but the space is very little to describe them. We invite you to visit also Gravina in Puglia, or the province of Brindisi where you can find the traces left by this great man.
Every church has its own voice, and the voice of the churches is that of their own organs, with their unmistakable sound: Apulia is rich of instruments of great merit, also very ancient, expression of an art that at its origins saw experienced “maestri” able to create jewels both from the technical and aesthetical point of view.
Unfortunately many of these organs keep silent full of dust and corroded by the time, but there are also many others that have come back to life thanks to the jobs of restoration that have given back an inestimable patrimony to the Apulians.
An ancient organ represents the admirable result of a harmonious operation of assemblage of elements and techniques so diversified including the cabinet-making, the carving, the gilding, the painting, the forging of the metals and so on, up to the final operations of intonation. An extremely elaborate and precious manufactured article where the skill of artisans and hands of illustrious unknown have operated together for the construction of keyboards, pedal kits, reeds, hoods and “somieri”. Therefore, a harmonic mixture of colours and sounds, an assembled of the terrestrial art tending to a unique purpose, synthesized in the inscription “Soli Deo honor et Gloria”. The art of building organs met its most flourishing luxuriance in the Baroque period, between the 17th and 20th century, when the true affirmation of this instrument took place also in Italy. In Apulia the art of making organs was founded and begun from Petrus de Simone, an able artisan of Neapolitan origins who came to Apulia and here operated for a long time. The most ancient of his creations can be found in Andria in the church of St. Nicola. In the Cathedral of Maglie there is a positive Carolus Sanarica, built in 1755. This masterpiece represents a patrimony of the craftsmanship of Salento. Always remaining in Salento, we enumerate some instruments of a family coming from North Europe, the Khyrchers, whose creations are in the Cathedral of Otranto: a triumph of immaculate angels adorning a totally white organ box with some gilded details, with three spans, 5 meters height and eight registers.
In the province of Bari, we find in Monopoli, in the church of S. Francesco d’Assisi a 1710 magnifi cent organ attributed to Eligio Khyrcher. A “Petrus De Simone” of 1762 could also be admired in the Cathedral of Monopoli, a small organ in the superior altar. Also in Putignano meaningful works of the organ maker De Simone in the church of S. Domenico (1759), in the church of S. Pietro and in Santa Maria del Carmine. All this marvelous creations date back to 1770.
From the Baroque organs we directly jump into the future by visiting the Museo Pino Pascali in Polignano a Mare. This artist was born in Bari in 1935 from parents of Polignano a Mare and in his brief life he get there fast, he tries to throw his imaginary over his time and, with a juvenile and warlike surge, typical of whom will never become old, he crosses shining fi nishing lines.
After the diploma at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Rome he explodes in a sudden and histrionic artistic parable putting him in few years in the Olympus of the contemporary artistic panorama.
His genius, the manipulation of unusual materials and the yearning never completely satisfy ed of experimentation, all these elements conduct him to measure himself with the stage design, with the creation of courts for the unforgettable Carousels, with painting and sculpture. In 1965 he exposes in the prestigious Gallery “La Tartaruga” in Rome, and in the 1968 he lands to the 34th Edition of the Biennale in Venice, but when the exhibition is still in progress he dies in a car accident at the age of 33, just at that time arrives the consecration by obtaining the International Prize for sculpture post mortem. The town of Polignano a Mare keeps celebrating him since 1988 by bringing to the birth of the Museo Pino Pascali. The importance of Palazzo Pascali resides in the fact that it is the only stable Museum of Contemporary Art in Apulia.
This sets it as ring of conjunction between the powerful cultural roots of the territory and the explosive strength of the local, national and international avant-garde that here find their own natural platform. The activity of the Museum is articulated through three important events: the several and interesting temporary shows of photography, video stages sculptures and paintings in order to promote the young generations of artists; the permanent collection of the artist a real pearl of the Museum that could be visited in some occasions and that includes the legacies of his family and the prestigious Pino Pascali Prize, born one year after the death of the artist awarding all those artists that represent innovation, contamination or pure intuition in the international panorama. It almost comes natural to associate “Baroque art” to the land of Salento, as if the marvelous game of shapes, of architectures, of the facades and altars volumes, of churches and convents is a natural gift of creative fl air and imagination. The cultural renovation in Lecce started in the year 1571 and characterized the years of the Spanish domination. In this climate of artistic and spiritual fervor the news of “manier” started to spread and evolved in Baroque style eccentricities and fanciness with one unique nave and lateral chapels but also by adopting the curve, generating movement and articulating facades.
Concavity and convexity offered complex and unnatural plans decorating and effectively hiding the walls in exaggerate way like the planets elliptical orbits. Baroque is movement but also illusionism just like the Seminary façade where flat rustication alternates with windows crowned by tympanum and decorations making the building elegant and refined.
The illusion of Baroque style consists also in creating false perspectives in the space. Such the false perspective present between the Palazzo Vescovile and the Duomo, where the eye perceives a distance that in reality doesn’t exist. The symbol par excellence of this southern art is the Basilica of Santa Croce. Fantastic, amazing, solemn: it marks the triumph of stone that patient artists knew how to turn into figures, masks, telamons, vases and swags of flowers and fruits, zoomorphic capital supporting columns and balusters, monsters and Harpies, mermaids and caryatids, lions and griffons, armed soldiers and men with turbans. Religiosity and mythology melt but the Holy Cross of God dominates above everything. This is the victory of Christianity with a rose window in the middle enriched by flowers, angel heads and the profile of the author.
The Baroque of Lecce was the Baroque of the entire area of Salento, from Ostuni to Martina Franca until the very end of the heel in Leuca. We should also mentions Gallipoli with its streets faced by Talamo and its marvelous Cathedral of Sant’Agata.