Bitonto

Italy

Bitonto is an ancient town (already prosperous by the 4th century BC), today renowned for some of the south's best olive oil and one of Apulia's best early Romanesque * cathedrals.

Its builders used Bari's San Nicola as their architectural model in 1175–1200 with even greater success. The facade is split into three sections horizontally and vertically, with protruding Lombard-style lions supporting the griffin-topped columns of the central portal, and a pelican pecking her breast atop the arch (a symbol of the Passion; the medievals believed that the pelican performed this selfless act to help nourish her young).

Look also for the Descent into Limbo lunette relief above the door. Above a row of bifore windows is the fine rose window, also surrounded by animal figures. The right flank of the church, facing the street, is lined with deep niches atop which runs a gallery of small arches and columns, ending in the right transept, which is a miniature version of the main facade.

The interior is also magnificent in its simple overall austerity combined with select gorgeous detailing. The columns have intricately carved capitals, and along the right of the nave are a pulpit (constructed using 13th-century fragments of the old altar) and a fantastic carved ambo of 1229, with a kneeling figure supporting the eagle on which the open book of the lectern rests, and a relief of Frederick II and his family incorporated below.

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