Church of Santa Chiara


The Archbishop of Matera, Antonio del Ryos Culminarez between 1668 and 1702 caused the church to be built within the Case Nuove district by staff from the Seminary, which had been set up as decreed by the Council of Trent.  The façade is intricately carved and framed by pilaster strips, surmounted by Corinthian capitals and its layout, a square made up of smaller squares, is strikingly reminiscent of that of a C16th polyptych.  The portal is flanked by two fluted Classical-style columns, and the logical organisation of the spaces is most impressive.
In the central niche there is a statue of the Madonna del Carmine, and the niches on either side of the portal contain statues of St. Francis on the right and St. Clare on the left.  The central niche above contains a statue of God the Father raising His hand in blessing. The late C18th wooden door is foliated and carries the coat-of-arms of Archbishop del Ryos inside an ornate floriated limestone portal typical of the Baroque style of the time, also carved with the Archbishop’s coat-of-arms.


The interior of the Church of Santa Chiara contains a nave ending in an ogee arch, unusual at the time and carrying overtones of the Gothic period, when it was a key feature of all church architecture.
There are several altars within the church.  The large stand with two wooden panels on the main altar is impressive.  The left panel features St Agnes, a young Roman girl who is thought to have been martyred under the Emperor Decius and who is regarded as the patron saint of Innocence both because of her tender years and because of the significance of her name.  The other panel features St. Rosa, a Peruvian Dominican tertiary, canonized for her exemplary virtue in 1671.  The enclosed order of nuns said their daily offices in the choir, above the large wooden stand.  At the centre is the large C18th canvas of the Madonna and Child with St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi, founders of the female and the male branches of the Franciscan Order respectively, who are always paired liturgically.
The first altar on the left-hand side is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel and the second to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There are several paintings on the nave walls, dating from the second half of the C18th and the early C19th.  These depict, in the following order, the Madonna of the Rosary, St. Joachim with St. Anne and a young Virgin Mary, and finally the Presentation of the Christ Child to St. Simeon Stylites the Elder.  The pentagonal gilded and polychrome carved wooden pulpit on the right is a fine example of early C18th Lucano craftsmanship.  The panels are carved with Saints from the Order of the Poor Clares.  Beyond the pulpit are the altars dedicated respectively to Christ and to St. Anne.