The present appearance of the Church of SS. PIETRO E PAOLO, generally known as the Church of San Pietro Caveoso, dates from the late C13th – early C14th, although the original building goes back to 1218. It is regarded as one of the major religious points of reference in Matera both for the size of the parish and the strength of its assets. The Baroque façade is decorated with pilaster strips that frame the portals and end in acroteria, and the niches contain statues of Saints, as follows: on the right, St. Paul, on the right St. Peter and Our Lady of Sorrows, symbol of the Church Universal, who shelters those who invoke her protection under her cloak, at the centre. It is interesting to note that the suppliants on the Virgin Mary’s left are all portrayed with hoods over their heads, as was the custom at the time the church was built, when there were a great many religious brotherhoods, which often provided for the anonymity of their members. This place of worship has undergone a good many alterations and restructurings over the course of the centuries, and has lost many of its original structural characteristics. The church was totally restructured during the C17th, when the present façade and the bell-tower were built, the interior enlarged with the addition of the side chapels and a tufa roof substituted for the original wooden tie-beam roof.
The church was re-consecrated by Archbishop Lanfranchi in 1752 and altered yet again: the pinnacle was added to the bell-tower, the interior covered with stuccoes and ornamentation and a false wooden ceiling installed under the tufa roof.
On entering the church the silence and the atmosphere emanating from the nave with its original ceiling, hidden during the C18th are palpable. Note the false ceiling with its painted wooden panels depicting Christ entrusting the future of the Church to St. Peter, the Madonna del Confalone and the Conversion of St. Paul. In the medallions are St John of Matera, St. Donato and the Angels and the Coronation of the Virgin, by the main altar.
There had originally been eight side chapels, four on the left and four on the right. Some traces remain of the latter, which were destroyed when the church was moved away from the Monterrone crag so that the Oratorio could be built. An archway was also built to give vehicular access to the rear of the Malve-Casalnuovo districts along the top edge of the ravine. In the niches from left to right are three statues: St. Leonard, a C16th Madonna and Child, known as “De Vexillo”, which had belonged in the destroyed chapel of the Confalone, a confraternity associated with the Archconfraternity of Rome and whose graces and indulgences granted by various Popes it shared, and St. John of Matera.
The central nave ends with a C18th altar over which there is a wooden Polyptych of the Virgin and Child between SS. Peter and Paul, the work of an unknown Materan painter in around 1540; there is a painting of the Last Supper in the predella; the Eternal Father is portrayed above.
There are four chapels along the left aisle: the first is dedicated to the Sorrowing Virgin and has a cross vault, there are a very few remnants of a presumably C15th fresco and a C17th Pietà by Alessandro Fracanzano; in the second chapel, two groups of C17th frescoes of the Lives of the Saints by Marino Deghello came to light during restoration work that had been covered over by C18th stuccoes: the first is of The Virgin Mary, St. Anthony Abbot and St. Lawrence and the other of St. Dominic. There is also part of a wooden bas-relief, thought to be C16th, of God the Father raising His hand in blessing.