Muro Leccese is a small town located in the central-southern part of Salento just 33 km from Lecce. The Messapians were from Illyria and, beginning in the 6th century BC, began transforming the town into an urban center with their symmetrical dwellings along the main roads.
It was completely razed to the ground by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, but all the inscriptions and ancient materials of the Bronze and Neolithic Ages are housed in the Provincial Museum of Lecce.
In order to understand its historical importance, there are a number of important milestones to note: in 1156, the first Prince of Muro Leccese was the Norman Guglielmo Bosco; then Ruggiero, son of Tancredi, the Count of Lecce, granted the feud to Alessandro Gothi.
But the Swabian domination and the fierce repression carried out by Henry VI during the conquest of the Norman territories left Muro Leccese and Salento in desolation. In the Angevin period, the feud of Muro belonged to the De’Monti family, Marquises of Corigliano d’Otranto, who disappeared from Muro after more than a century of principality.
At the end of the 14th century, under Charles III of Durres (1345/1386), Muro was reserved for the Crown, but after the turbulent events of the Durazzo family, the town passed to the Orsini Del Balzo, Prince of Taranto, who delimited the boundaries of the feud, granting it to the Protonobilissimo, a family originally from Trento. These were the princes of Muro until 1774, when the city passed to the state.
In 1797, the feud was granted by King Ferdinand to Prince Antonio Maria Pignatelli of Belmonte until 1854, when he sold it to the Knight Achille Tamborino.
Given its history, there are many itineraries that allow visitors to discover its past and be amazed at what lies within its walls, from menhir to baroque jewelry.
Located in the old town centre in Piazza del Popolo, the Church of Madre dell’ Annunziata truly stands out. Built with the local limestone at the end of the 17th century, the church is a true gem. It houses works by some of the most important painters of the 18th century. And it is precisely because of the quantity and quality of the paintings, some of which are enormous in size, that it could be considered an actual art gallery.
Another important monument, a symbol of Muro Leccese, dates back to the Byzantine area: the Church of Santa Marina, which was built with the large slabs of the ancient walls. This church boasts the oldest cycle of frescoes dedicated to St. Nicholas.
Just outside the walls of the village, you will find the simple and majestic menhir of St. Anthony’s Cross, which is located in the middle of a magnificent crossroad of dry stone walls that line two streets. This is where the municipalities of Sanarica and Muro Leccese meet- the “zicche” district- not far from the ruins of what was once the magnificent church of Madonna di Pompignano.
There are many different hypotheses on the real and original function of menhirs, but in this specific case, given its position, it leads us to believe that it was some type of primitive road sign.
The town was completely razed to the ground by the Romans in the 3rd century BC. Fortunately, all the inscriptions and ancient materials from the Bronze and Neolithic Age are kept in the Borgo Terra Museum, inside the Palazzo del Principe, which was founded during its restoration in 1999. It provides an opportunity to visit a permanent exhibition, that highlights the events linking the Middle Ages and Renaissance in one of the most fascinating villages of Salento.
And on the occasion of Christmas, from December 7th-9th, Muro Leccese presents the fifth edition of “Natale al Borgo” or Christmas in the Village. 80 artisans and artists will exhibit their creations throughout the ancient village, accompanied by food stands and numerous events throughout the day.
On the morning of December 7th, there will be a guided walking tour that includes the Christmas market, the halls of the Palazzo del Principe, the underground oil mill, the courtyards and the church of San Giuseppe.
On the morning of December 8th, you’ll go back in time with a medieval reenactment of the village in the underground oil mill. Later, in the afternoon, you will witness the procession to celebrate the Immaculate Virgin Mary. In the streets of the village, you’ll also be able to taste all the traditional foods of Salento, prepared by the cooks of the village.
The “Natale al Borgo” event will end with a fireworks display and tastings of local, traditional Christmas foods. This food and wine tour will be enlivened by Gregorian chants and a bagpipe concert which will fully immerse you in the local Holiday tradition.
Do not miss the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, during the most magical period of the year, experiencing first hand all the emotions that history has left within its walls.
Copyright photos: www.motusanimi.com; www.paisemiu.com; www.dolmenhir.it