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Pugliese Teacher Makes Middle Age Art Discovery in Basilicata


The region of Basilicata is one of the least explored places in Italy, and that is exactly why it is full of undiscovered treasures and natural beauty. From the rich soil of Rionero in Vulture, which produces renowned olive oil and Aglianico red wine to the ruins of the 11th century Castle of Melfi to the stunning beauty of the seaside coast of Maratea, Basilicata is home to countless sources of beauty. 


Nicola Tricarico (right) with church pastor
Writer and scholar, Nicola Tricarico, is from the neighboring region of Puglia. Born and raised in the beautiful seaside town of Manfredonia, Tricarico is an aficionado of Italian art and culture. In the early 1970's when he was working on his college thesis about art history, he made a huge discovery. While doing research at an ancient church in Basilicata, La chiesa di San Donato in the town of Ripacandida, in the provence of Potenza, he was literally touching and poking about the walls when he realized something was underneath the primer. Further inspection led to the discovery of paintings which could date back to the 13th century, with the painter most likely having a connection to St. Francis of Assisi. The images which adorn the walls of the church are colorful, detailed scenes inspired by the Old and New Testament. There is not much information documented on the church, but it's almost certain that it was founded by the Benedictine Friars in 1152. 

Exterior of San Donato
Tricarico's discovery led to a documentary film produced by RAI television, which explored the history of the church and its hidden paintings. The sanctuary in which the paintings are located was recognized by UNESCO in 2010 as a monument to peace and profound spiritual values. Tricarico, now a teacher of nearly 40 years in Manfredonia, continues to visit and study the church. He recently published a beautifully illustrated book which recounts the history of the church and these mystery paintings. He believes there are more paintings within the church walls just waiting to be discovered.  

For more information about the church of San Donato, please visit the church's website at www.sandonatoripacandida.net

- Jeannine Guilyard


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