Martina Franca


he town of Martina Franca has one of the most interesting social fabric of the whole South of Italy.

In the North and in the Centre, the flourishing of towns and republics has produced some self-government skills and a principle of public liability that have matured a particular sense of civic duty over the centuries. In the South, mostly ruled by distant rulers and famish courts, these qualities have struggled to emerge, certainly not for the citizens faults but because the political environment produced abuse and, consequently, hostility towards the public authorities. Apulia, especially the south-central part, represents the exception and, in this Apulia, Martina Franca, a medium-sized town of about 50,000 inhabitants stands out, with a large civil tradition witnessed by the numerous secular and religious associations, all active and dignified each with a distinct identity.

In May 2016, I found how amazing the participation of the town to the public full reading of the Divine Comedy was. Seven hundred readers, primary school children and traders, professionals, priests and magistrates, detainees and teachers, political refugees who read in Arabic and the town historical associations, mothers with daughters, schools with an extraordinary commitment of teachers and students, some of whom were drawing their idea of the Divine Comedy during the reading of Paradise and others who performed by heart. More than three thousand people followed the reading in the Church of the Carmine, in St. Martin’s Basilica and the cloister of the Augustinian. All this occurs only if a town has great and strong civic tradition and if there is a dynamic relationship between the civil society and the Church.




edicated to the saint of Tours, the basilica was built in 1747, using the space of the former late Romanesque style church, whose presence is already attested in a 1348 scroll preserved in the Chapter of the Basilica.

The oldest church remains today only in the bell tower and part of the sacristy. Despite the lack of sources related to the external and interior architectural structure of the fourteenth century, the acts of the Holy Visit of Lelio Brancaccio, Archbishop of Taranto(1594), allow to identify the unique characteristics, analyzed by the historian Giovanni Liuzzi and brought to light by archaeological excavations carried out during the 2007 restoration work.

Therefore the building underwent numerous changes in the course of two and a half centuries, from the early sixteenth century until the middle of the eighteenth century, when, after the archpriest Isidoro Chirulli’s will, the old building was demolished to build the current temple of the late Baroque architectural taste, designed by the Milanese architect Giuseppe Mariani.

The decision, dictated by the need to consolidate the parties damaged by the earthquake of February 20, 1743, met the aesthetic requirements of conforming the building to the typical eighteenth century’s trend.




he Stabile Palace is one of the splendid palaces of the old town of Martina Franca, linked to the figure of Stabile Francesco Saverio, the bishop of Venafro (1754-1788), a member of one of the most important families of Martina in the eighteenth century, who commissioned – among other things – the altar of Christ at the Column, placed in the transept of the Basilica.

Located behind the church, with which it has always been in close relation, the building preserves the typical elements of the Rococo Martina, despite the architectural changes made during the nineteenth century.

The facade is characterized by the superposition of two lodges that accentuate the vertical development of which, the lower one – broader – is embellished by a railing in the richly decorated wrought iron and by a barrel vault, characterized by mixtilinear stucco frames.

A string-course frame, very protruding, horizontally divides the two open spaces of the facade. On it, in a central position, the coat of arms of the Stabile family stands out: a central column pulled from both sides by two lions with two side lilies on the higher part and a tailed star positioned on top of the column. The upper loggia, slightly smaller, is characterized by the wooden ceiling and by the presence of a decorative frame with two heads of cherubs in keystone.




he Collegiate Basilica of Martina Franca is a treasure chest of art. In a span of half a millennium in this ecclesia major collections of liturgical furnishings of the highest workmanship and history, documents were gathered, now displayed as a museum exhibition for the thousands of visitors who arrive every year in this small world of the Italian province.

The Stabile Palace, seat of MuBa, placed in the cultural insula of the Basilica, is in the heart of the monumental urban fabric of the historic centre of Martina Franca; in the maze of nchiostre, squares, alleys, arranged for a supportive community, to allow for immediate and close relations, enjoying the beauty of being together.

Displaying treasures for the liturgy (chalices, monstrances, reliquaries, copes, dalmatics, chasubles, collections of liturgical texts for prayer and Gregorian chant in parchment) means claiming, again, the feast of faith. It is to witness and transmit the encounter between the Gospel and art, between the preached message and the people who receive and translate the pregnancy of the’ mystery ‘of the Divine Presence among us into visible signs.

The exhibition of scrolls, papal bulls, notarial deeds, chapter house members conclusions, collections of “Acts of Taranto’s Archbishops’ holy pastoral visits”, brief apostolics (plenty of documentation is kept in the ” Archbishop Nicola Margiotta Library- Archive, adjacent to the Muba and just as much was dispersed for not always positive historical events) is to narrate about an extraordinary community.




he Museum of the Basilica and the adjacent Archive-Library “Archbishop Nicola Margiotta” preserve an important documentary archive, officially recognized of historical value in 2006 by the Ministry of Culture and Environment, and embellished with Liturgical Codes in parchment of the Chapter of the Collegiate.

The Archives preserve records and one hundred and sixty volumes, three hundred canonical books and thirty-four envelopes of various correspondence, also, fifty-three scrolls, dating from 1348 to 1730 and restored in 1998, concerning papal indulgences, to the decrees of the Roman Curia, to concessions of privileges to the clergy of the Church of San Martino by the archbishops of Taranto, and deeds of donations to St. Martin’s Church’s Collegiate of authentic papers of relics and temporal goods.

The Platea reverendissimi Capituli civitatis Martinae, massive inventory of the chapter‘s members goods drafted at the end of the seventeenth century and updated a century later, is the most significant paper archive document, consisting of about a thousand handwritten pages, analyzed by the historian Giovanni Liuzzi, collecting all the news of the Church of San Martino and the town of Martina Franca and its celebrities.

The heritage is enriched, moreover, by some liturgical and musical texts: three manuscripts breviaries, two psalters, five handwritten and two printed gradual, dated between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries; four antiphonaries, two of which were printed, made between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.



Mons. Franco Semeraro

Direttore del Museo

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Arch. Gianfranco Aquaro

Progettista e direttore tecnico

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Ing. Giuseppe Mandina


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