A complex water collection system in the heart of Sasso Caveoso

Have you ever wondered what is hidden underneath the Sassi? If you just go down the old Ipogei, you can discover a clever sewers and cysterns system, created digging the limestone rock to canalize water. It is described in “Raccolta delle Acque” Museum with its historic Palombaro. Thanks to this system, Sassi of Matera became UNESCO Heritage in 1993.

The friable consistency of Sassi limestone rock allowed this system to come to life, and its inhabitants to dig in the rock their houses. Moreover,  it made possible to create this clever system of linked tanks, starting from subterranean cysterns, used to distribute water to the precarious houses. Visiting the Museum in its simple exhibition itinerary, it is clear to understand how this natural hydraulic ingeneering strategy works, using both rain and spring water.

This cystern is located  under Purgatorio Vecchio Church, in Via Purgatorio Vecchio, 12. The Church, built between the XIII and XV centuries, is beside what is known to be the house of Saint John of Matera. Probably, when the Saint died in 1139, it became a Church and was expanded in his name. On this occasion, the house of Saint John of Matera became the sacristy of Purgatorio Vecchio Church and together, in 1200 turned into a parish. Before its suppression during the XVI century, it was a parish built in defense of women abusively attacked by French and Angevin conquerors.

On the right side of the entrance of Purgatorio Vecchio Church, during restoration works, there were found graves with irregular shapes and narrow, in which bodys should have been placed crouched. After the Edict of Napoleon, the burial rite should took place outside the churches, underneath the ground, dug in the rock. Subsequently its suppression, in 1503, the Purgatorio Vecchio Church was abandoned for several centuries and then annexed to San Pietro Caveoso Parish, until 1800.


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