1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Matera

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MATERA, a city of Basilicata, Italy, in the province of Potenza, from which it is 68 m. E. by road (13 m. S. of the station of Altamura), 1312 ft. above sea-level. Pop, (1901), 17,801. Part of it is built on a level plateau and part in deep valleys adjoining, the tops of the campaniles of the lower portions being on a level with the streets of the upper. The principal building is the cathedral of the archbishopric of Acerenza and Matera, formed in 1203 by the union of the two bishoprics, dating respectively from 300 and 398. The western façade of the cathedral is plain, while the utmost richness of decoration is lavished on the south front which faces the piazza. Almost in the centre of this south façade is an exquisitely sculpted window, from which letters from the Greek patriarch at Constantinople used to be read. The campanile is 175 ft. high. In the vicinity are the troglodyte caverns of Monte Scaglioso, still inhabited by some of the lower classes, and other caves with 13th-century frescoes.

Neolithic pottery has been found here, but the origin of the town is uncertain. Under the Normans Matera was a countship for William Bras de Fer and his successors. It was the chief town of the Basilicata from 1664 till 1811, when the French transferred the administration to Potenza.