Monopoli - Historical Overviews
Monopoli, founded in the Middle Ages after the destruction of Egnatia, is located in a place of an Apulian center.
It was of major importance for shipping under the Byzantines and the Normans and at the time of the Crusades. It has always been rich and flourishing, but, because of its strategic position, always exposed to raids and invasions.
In 1456 it was taken after fierce resistance by the Venetians - allies of King Ferdinand I of Naples – who were seeking safe havens for their business. In 1509 it fell to the Spanish, who reinforced the castle against raids by the Turks.
Until the 19th century it was the main center of oil exports of the Kingdom of Naples. During the 20th century it became an important trading center and, in the second half of the century, it was enriched by a strong manufacturing industry. At the end of the 20th century it had progressed conspicuously in every economic sector.
The territory of Monopoli is composed of over 100 villages characterized by Mediterranean colors and scents. Between olive and almond trees, vineyards and wooded spots, there are many farms, often fortified by towers, drains and boundary walls, which served to defend themselves against incursions by pirates and bandits. They are the fortified farms (“masserie fortificate”) of Monopoli, now a must for interesting itineraries to help you understand the history of country life.
Dilapidated, still bound to traditional agriculture or transformed into luxurious accommodations or restaurants, they preserve in the architectural structure, elegant or rustic, Mediterranean or baroque, clear traces of the complex and troubled history of the agrarian South. In many of these farms we encounter numerous chapels and small churches, mostly deconsecrated, and oil mills, usually created in caves.
In the district Capitolo, small coastal village of Monopoli, you can admire the Masseria Garappa whose structure preserves the machicolations, the ramparts, the drawbridge and the small church with a portal of the 16th century, and Masseria Losciale e Lamalunga, built in the 17th century and enriched by a stairwell of the 18th century and the chapel.
On the way to the hills, Catalluccio, Spina Grande e Piccola and Masseria Rota are worth seeing. A farm road leads to one of the most interesting rural complexes of the area, Masseria Caramanna, characterized by a unique circular staircase and a linear balustrade on the terrace, from where can be admired the landscape that stretches from the hills to the sea.
The Masseria Vagone, built in the 17th century, is characterized by the presence of a small church with a vault in Carparo (the original white tuff of the area).
Along the 13 km of coastline rises up the charming Castle of St. Stephen, built along the typical low and rugged coastline that characterizes the Monopolitan area. It was the most important coastal defense system of the Monopolitan area throughout the Middle Ages, founded in 1086 by Godfrey the Norman, it arouse at the time of the Crusades on a little peninsula between two creeks forming two small natural harbors. Having a circular plan, with the presence of a well from where to draw ground water, it was the seat of the abbey of the Benedictines, which gave the name to the fortress due to the presence, within the castle, of the relics of St. Stephen. The latter were transferred on December 26, 1365 in order to protect them from the constant attacks from pirates and Turks. Around the end of the 13th century, the Knights of Malta, with the aim of controlling naval traffic, decided to move into the abbey and to strengthen the defensive manor. They created a ditch, still visible today, and rendered the two small bays, on the right and left of the fortified monastery, useful for docking. The presence of the two bays also gave the opportunity to repair multiple ships at once and to supply them with everything necessary to undertake the trip to the Holy Land. An important historical event for the citizens of Monopoli is related to the landing of the Byzantine icon of the Madonna della Madia in December 16, 1117, when Romualdo was Bishop of the city, in a period in which the roof of the new Cathedral could not be completed due to lack of money; the insistent urging of Bishop Romualdo to the citizens to pray the Madonna that she may help them completing the church resulted in the miraculous landing of the Odegitria (the icon), which is still the patron saint of the city, in fact the Madonna della Madia. The icon arrived in Monopoli in the dawn of December 16, 1117, carried by a raft of beams, which afterwards formed the roof of the church. Following this miraculous event, the new cathedral, originally dedicated to Saints Maia and Mercury, was dedicated to the Madonna della Madia.