Muro Leccese with its 107 hectares enclosed within the town walls, is the largest Messapian town known of in Salento.
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Muro Leccese with its 107 hectares enclosed within the town walls, is the largest Messapian town known in the Salento. It has been the object of archaeological investigation for more than thirty years and has provided us with a wealth of information about the Messapian period, comparable to that from Vaste (Poggiardo). The research carried out by the University of Lecce, by the Apulian Archaeological Superintendancy and the by the ╔cole Franšaise de Rome, has brought to light many remains of the settlement, already seen to be growing during the 9th and 8th century BC. They include the North entrance and parts of some domestic areas. After the Messapian centre was abandoned, perhaps following the advance of Roman dominion, the area was cultivated for a lengthy period, first by Roman farms, and later by new villages of Byzantine times. Of this long period of over a thousand years we know very little.
At the time of the Normans arrival in the second half of the 11th century, the Muro area was host to a number of small agricultural centres, including Brongo, Polisano and Miggiano. Their later abandonment, due to a process of synecysm or aggregation, was to lead to the formation of what is now the historic centre of Muro Leccese in the late Medieval period, between the 15th and 16th century.
In 1999, when the Palazzo del Principe was being restored, the University of Lecce was invited to take part in the work, which revealed the archaeological potential of Borgo Terra's historic centre. Muro Leccese was thus shown to be an important town in terms of our understanding of the historic dynamics at work in the Salento area in the period of transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, which is the same time that witnessed the threat of Turkish invasion. The quality and the quantity of the finds has led to the creation of a permanent display, the first of its kind in Apulia for a medieval town, which aims to shed light on a period of utmost importance in the formation of modern Mediterranean Europe.
It was the period which also saw great events such as the circumnavigation of Africa and the Indies, the discovery of America, the Empire of Charles V upon which, as he himself loved to boast, the sun never set, the time of Humanism and the Renaissance, the religious reforms of Luther and Calvin. It was a new world with new horizons, horizons which would have been inconceivable to Medieval man. The Salento equally witnessed the sun setting on the Medieval world. Now this period has been reconstructed by new research, through which Muro Leccese takes on heightened importance as an example of urban archaeology and exemplary of the genesis of many modern towns in the Salento.
Provincia di Lecce
Site created by Giuseppe Gravili (Medieval Archaeology Lab - University of Salento). Scientific Director Prof. Paul Arthur.
Text and images edited by the 'Laboratorio di Archeologia Medievale' University of Salento
Translation by Sarah B. Scott (2007)
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