Santa Maria della Nova

Useful Information

Location: Ostuni, at the road SS16 towards Carovigno
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=38 m, W=2.60-3.80 m, H=2-3 m.
Guided tours:
Bibliography: Prof. Luigi Greco, Cosimo Legrottaglie (2004): La Chiesa della Madonna della Nova in Ostuni: dal Medioevo all'età moderna , Biblioteca di cultura pugliese / 2, 149, Glatina 2004.
Address: Tel: +39-0
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1561 church built.


The church Santa Maria della Nova in Ostuni has a natural cave behind the altar, which contains a series of Christian murals. The cave is almost 40 m long and the floor is covered by cave clay. The walls of the main passage are irregular, the passage is sometimes circular, sometimes triangular.

To paint the murals, sections of the cave wall were chiseled out to provide a flat surface. Although they are sometimes called frescoes, they are actually murals, as there is no plaster. Frescoes are painted on plaster which is very fresh, not completely hardened, which makes them more durable as the colour fils the pores of the fresh plaster. The murals in the cave are painted on the limestone, which works rather well because of the natural porosity of the limestone. And the constat temperature and humidity in the cave protects them also. Nevertheless some of the paintings are encrusted with speleothems, which formed after they were painted.

One of the paintings show Jesus with Saint John the Baptist to the left and Virgin Mary on the right side. Jesus holds the book of the evangelists which has the inscription EGO SUM LUX MUNDI QUI SEQUITUR ME NON AMBULAT IN TENEBRIS (I am the light of the earth, who believes in me does not walk in the dark). Another painting shows the crucifiction scene with the cruzifix in the center and two mourning figures at the side. This are Virgin Mary, who points with her arms to her Son, and St. John the Evangelist with his hands clasped in prayer. It is the painting which is farthest from the entrance of the cave.