The cathedral of Bitonto represents the most complete and mature expression of Apulian Romanesque. It was built between the end of XIth and half of the XIIIth century, by imitating the Basilica of St. Nicholas of Bari, and redefining an earlier Medieval church dedicated to St. Valentine and at the same time set on – in turn – an early Christian basilica. The cathedral, like many churches of Apulia, has undergone renovations and structural changes and was covered with Baroque stucco and decorations from the end of the XVIIth century: however, targeted and subsequent restorations, conducted already on XIXth, have returned to the monument the aspect considered original. The facade is divided by pilasters into three sections corresponding to the inner aisles: in the top center of the cusp terminal stands a bright rose, while four mullioned windows, ornately framed, dominate the three entrance gates. The southern side, opening onto a large area blatant, is punctuated by six deep arches, over which runs the esaforato divided into thirty columns. The interior retains the original Romanesque elements that return an austere, but harmonious. The plant is a Latin cross, with three semicircular apses: eight columns and two pillars separate the nave from the aisles, on which grow the women's galleries. The nave and transept are covered with multi-colored beams, while the side with barrel vaults. On the right side are placed the pulpit, composed of fragments of the original altar of the basilica, and the pulpit, made in 1229 by Nicolaus, the Master who also built the bell tower of the Cathedral of Trani. The square-shaped marble ciborium, by Gualtiero from Foggia (1240), was destroyed in the XVIIth century. The large crypt, with frescoed walls, is covered by vaults resting on columns decorated with rich capitals. The last massive restoration – started in 1991 and ended in 2002 – made it possible to investigate the succorpo of the cathedral through stratigraphic excavation and to document substantial monumental evidences relating to previous periods of employment in the area. This guide, which inaugurates the publishing series ROSMARINI, through the rigorous reconstruction of the history of the cathedral and the rich iconographic documentations, is proposed as a useful learning tool for visitors and for the scholars.
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