Rock Church of San Nicola dei Greci

This monastic settlement dates from the C10th, and was built above the church of the Madonna delle Virtù.  Until 1956, it was used as a private home.  The original structural plan is almost unrecognisable, after the collapse of the hall a great many years ago, but the two parallel aisles terminating in apses and an arched iconostasis can still be made out.  It contains some fine frescoes, which were restored in 1978: there is a Crucifixion in the bow-shaped vault of the right aisle, which was also used as a burial place, as was the plateau above.  The C14th Crucifixion, in a red frame, shows Christ resting his head on his right arm, with the Virgin Mary looking intense and St John the Evangelist, holding the rolled-up Gospel in his hand, on either side.  It is worth noting the flowers blossoming at the edges of the crucifix: these are widely considered to be the characteristic “asphodels” typical of the flora in the Park of the Materan Murgia.  There is a marvellous view from the Park terraces in front of this ancient place of worship.
The triptych of Saints in the left aisle shows, from right to left, St. Barbara (C13th), clad in sumptuous imperial robes with her trademark auburn hair, St Nicholas (C14th), wearing a dalmatic, his hand raised in a Greek blessing and St. Pantaleon (C13th) holding a box of ampoules to symbolise his medical profession.  Next to this is a C13th Madonna and Child, of Oriental inspiration, sadly in a dreadful state of repair.
To the right on entering, there are two later frescoes: St. Peter Martyr with the symbols of his martyrdom and St. Anthony, both C16th.
Excavations carried out in front of the church 1977 revealed the remains of a Bronze Age furnace and some late mediaeval findings.
The buildings around the church are worth a visit: a series of dwellings, appurtenances such as the room with the decantation basin on the floor, supplying the many tanks and the “bell-shaped” silos carved out of the rocks, used to conserve foodstuffs and grain.