From medieval villages to Borgo Terra

Excavations 1997-2000

Watch the QuickTime film (ver.6) Watch the QuickTime film (ver.6)

During the late medieval period, when the Salento was under Byzantine dominion, what is now the area of Muro Leccese saw small agricultural communities appear, organised into villages or choria. From this period, prior to the Norman conquest of the 11th century, the only monumental evidence which has survived in the area of Muro is the church of Saint Marina. Written sources and archaeological data demonstrate that, at the time of the Angevins (12th -14th century), the network of medieval villages and hamlets included Brongo, Misciano (Miggiano), Miggianello, Polisano and, probably, a settlement around the church of S. Marina itself. These villages, based on a variegated agricultural economy, with just a few dozen inhabitants, were made up of small groups of houses, with at least one church and adjoining cemetery. It is difficult to say much about these settlements without archaeological excavations, but at Misciano, S. Marina, and at Pompignano it is still possible to see the original churches. In Brongo, where the Franciscan Convent was established, the menhir of the Crucifix is still standing.

At the end of the Middle Ages, between the 15th and 16th centuries, a series of factors led to the villages being definitively abandoned and the agricultural labourers being moved to a central location which was to become the existing Borgo Terra of Muro Leccese.

Among the factors which led to this move and to the birth of the fortified centre was the threat of invasion by the Turks who, after the conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, rapidly occupied the area which is now Greece and Albania. But of even more importance seems to have been the desire of feudal families to reorganise their agricultural lands so as to better control the work force and production. It was precisely at this time that the system based on intensive and variegated farming was progressively abandoned making way for the expansion of olive groves, which were to create the wealth of the post medieval Salento.

Menhir of Brongo Click here to enlarge

Santa Maria di Miggiano
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