Religious architecture in Carpignano Salentino

Santa Cristina Crypt (or Madonna of the Graces) represents the first testimony of the presence of the Byzantine Greek rituals in Carpignano and is also one of the oldest religious sites in the whole of Puglia. Entirely carved in the rock, the Crypt dates back to the IX century, it represents an important example of the Byzantine art in Southern Italy and it holds the oldest paintings in Southern Italy, dated and signed.
Nowadays, the most common denomination given to the site is Santa Cristina Crypt; Santa Cristina is, in fact, represented at least seven times in the crypt. The old denomination of Crypt of St. Marina and Cristina, proposed by the first experts, is today obsolete, because the two paintings originally attributed to Marina are actually Cristina and an Angel. The official denomination of Madonna of the Graces church is still used mostly due to the location of the church (Madonna of the Graces square).
The current look of the crypt is the result of the renovation undertaken in the XVIII century, that deeply changed the structure but luckily preserved the vast majority of the paintings. The room is now divided in two sections, a larger one, which is the crypt itself, and a smaller one (the so-called endonartece), which is a sort of vestibule. In the larger section, the only remaining pillar marks the division between the holy area, called “vima” in Greek, from the “Naos”, the area for the churchgoers.
In the smaller room, which according to the tradition was sacred to Santa Marina, there is, just in front of the entrance staircase, an altar from the XVIII century named after the Madonna of the Graces, which include an oval niche with a painting of the Holy Mary with Jesus. On the side wall there are representations of San Biagio and Sant’Antonio Abate, while at the end of the same wall is represented a woman whose only visible part is her face, identified as Santa Marina.
In the larger room, sacred to Santa Cristina, there are the most famous paintings of the crypt, the Teofilatto and the Eustazio groups, from the name of the painters who made them. The group made by Teofilatto, located in the main area, dates back to 959 ac, as indicated, and represents a Christ Pantocrator. In the left apse, the group of paintings by Eustazio represent a Christ on a throne, with the Holy Mary with Jesus at his left and two other characters at his right. This composition dates back to 1020 ac. On the north side, in front of the staircase, there are two paintings of Santa Cristina. The first one, the smaller one, is in better condition and dates back to the XII century; the second one, almost entirely ruined, was painted on an inner layer of the wall and might be the oldest painting of the entire church. On the south side, on the right hand side to the staircase, there is another picture of Santa Cristina, dating back to the XV century. On the next corner walls there are a number of paintings whilst on the only original pillar there are three paintings: San Nicola at the centre, San Teodoro to the right and Santa Cristina to the left.


VIRGIN MARY CHURCH (CHIESA MATRICE ASSUNZIONE MARIA VERGINE) (re-built in the XVII century on a XV century building)
Located in the heart of Carpignano Salentino, the main Church is dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary. It was re-built in the XVII century on a XV century building of smaller size.
It features an elegant façade made with the local stone and include an ample staircase from where access to the building is granted.
In the inside there are remarkable paintings dating back to the XVIII century and baroque altars. Some paintings, from the original old building, date back to the XVI and XVII century.


The Immacolata chapel was built around the end of the XVIII century by the Spiri family. The inside, made of a unique nave, includes along the perimeter of the building, the wooden benches for the churchgoers. The altar dedicated to the Holy Mary is considered to be remarkable.

The sanctuary was built in the XVI century, as indicated on the front façade (1575). It was built on the byzantine crypt dedicated to Saint Giovanni Battista.
According to the tradition, on July 2nd, 1568, an old blind man, trying to escape a storm, found a shelter in an abandoned cave. While praying, he fell asleep and the Holy Mary appeared to him in his dreams and she asked him to build a church in that place. The old crypt is still open, in the basement of the Sanctuary, where also a painting of the Holy Mary, discovered in 1568, is exposed.
Along the walls of the Sanctuary there are some remarkable paintings dating back to the XVI century and some canvas representing St. Paul and Peter and the Virgin of the Purgatory, made by Ippolito Borghese in 1601.


To Santa Marina is dedicated a byzantine church that was built on the remains of Stigliano (~1.9 miles from the town centre), an old byzantine casale destroyed by the Turkish and owned, among others, by the Granafei marquess, who also owned the territory of Sternatia.
The church is traditionally linked to the territory of Serrano. Built in the 1762 alongside a civil building, it was built upon request of Domenico Salzedo. It lays on the remains of an old byzantine crypt with a square floorplan on whose some old paintings are still barely visible, including a Holy Mary with Jesus and Santa Marina. The church, with a Greek cross floorplan, include altars sacred to San Nicola and Eligio.