Massafra (110 m. s.l.m. 35.000 inhabitants) is situated in the North-West of Taranto.
Its territory boasts the signs of the human presence from the Prehistoric period (late Paleolitic). Finds, dating from the Neolithic age, have been discovered by historians (such as the famous Dolmen of Accetta) which are an evident sign of “messapiche” colonies existence and memories about Greek and Roman civilization (necropolis of Carrino-S. Sergio). The following years to the Roman domination were periods of northen-african population migrations.
They settled in the caves of the territory and they originated the “rupestre civilization”.
The name Massa-Afra cames from a population called “Afro” white-skin people and of latin origin. Some historians say that during Annibal wars, some soldiers settled in this territory. In the Middle Ages, the rovines were the refuge of Basilian monks fled from Leon The Eusarico’s iconoclast persecutions and they became places of cult and hermitages.
Even today we can admire numerous rock-hewn churches (crypts), decorated with precious frescoes, in which the first Christian communities could meet together (crypts of St. Marina, St. Leonardo, La Candelora). During the Middle Ages there were several foreign dominations and in 1497 Massafra was sold to the Prince Artusio Pappacoda of Naples. In 1633 Pappacoda family sold the city to Carmignano’s and then to Imperiali’s until 1778.Then the “comune” ruled in the City.
Today Massafra in known as the “Thebaid of Italy”, expression used the first time by the historian Vincenzo Gallo to put in evidence the value of the City, considered the cradle of the rock civilization of the Jonian land.