The journey through the hearth of medieval Biccari starts in Matteotti Square, where you can admire a monumental fountain in the neoclassical style, the monument in honor of Donato Menichella, citizen of Biccari, former Governor of the Bank of Italy, and the Monument dedicated to the fallen soldiers in war. Going up Roma street, where one of the two gates of access to the fortified historical center (Porte Torre) must have risen, we find the cylindrical Byzantine tower built by Catepano Basilio Bojohannes by the hands of his vicar Bisanzio de Alferana as an outpost of defense from the Duchy of Benevento’s Longobard and for better control on the Traiana Street. It is a cylindrical tower 23 meters high with a thin bull on the top, realized with irregular stones, sometimes faceted, held together by a loamy mortar. Without being subjected to relevant renovation, today we can admire it in its original structure. Inside it was divided in 4 spaces, one of which underground, accessible by a staircase still visible. Today these spaces are used to set up exhibitions and as home for the Civic Museum.
Coming out of the tower you can imagine the ancient circle of walls that enclosed the heart of the village, which also included Via Lippi and Via Madonna delle Grazie. Built by Pergamo, a Norman official of Roberto il Guiscardo’s army, it is characterized by little square or circular towers, of which there are few remains. Later, with the new Lord of Biccari, Guglielmo d’Altavilla, nephew of Roberto il Guiscardo, the inhabited center expanded with Porta Pozzi. To both gates, Porta Pozzi and Porta della Torre, were added the ones of Annunziata, Colabastucci and San Quirico. Walking through Via Madonna delle Grazie, it is possible to see the ancient cobblestone alleys and visit the Ethnographic, the Carpenter and the Shoemaker Museums. Going up to Via Campanile you can reach the Succorpo, where, inside Papa Giovanni XXIII Hall you can admire the XVIII century magnificent stall backs dedicated to San Donato, engraved and decorated with gold by Biccari’s craftsmen. You arrive at the Maria SS Assunta Church, Biccari’s main church. It is an example of neoclassical architecture. In the middle of the last century it was constructed on a pre-existing church founded in the XVII century. The church has 3 Latin-cross naves, with an only central semicircular apsis, 10 chapels, 5 for each nave and 2 in the transept and 6 pairs of columns on plinth with Ionic volute. We can mention the hand-carved stone baptismal font, the bas-relief depicting the Assunta and the Pietà painting in the left arm of the transept, painted in 1584 by Giovanni Orazio De Luca, a large painting of the Neapolitan school dated 1775 that decorates the church central vault and the Madonna di Costantinopoli painting, made by Enzo Liberti, an artist of Biccari.
Through the alley Giordano you arrive in Via Domenico Lippi, where, between the several stately homes we mention Palazzo La Piccola built towards the end of the XVIII century and Menichella Palace, which dates back to IXX century, whose door still keeps the axes of the anti-unitary uprising, that lead to the murder of Domenico Lippi, former mayor and symbol of the liberal citizens of Biccari. Moving on, in Don Sturzo Square you can admire the portal of Palazzo Gallo and finally you reach Piazza Umberto I, built in 1876 after the abatement of the ancient church of Purgatorio. Following in Via Municipio is the remarkable Caracciolo Palace, constructed in the XVI century by Caracciolo’s lordship, noble family from Naples. Its original Reinassance architecture has been turned upside down by the continuous renovations based on various the needs. Since 1860 it is the village’s center of power and nowadays is the seat of the Municipality. It still preserves the original Porta Pozzi’s cross, built in 1473 by Matteo Stendardo, lord of Biccari. It is a Greek cross, enclosed in a ring decorated with bay leaves intertwined and elevated outside the walls as a supernatural defense and to propitiate the wanderer. From the cross corners 4 swords (today there are just 2), while on the column there are hands that hold the ring. On one side the cross portrays the crucifix image, and with its side the Virgin and San Giovanni, while on the other the Christ seated as a judge. Around, on each plaque, the symbols of the 4 Evangelists.
Through Via Carceri we reach San Quirico’s church, next to the homonymous gate. Dating back to the XIII century, it is the oldest place of worship in Biccari and externally is characterized by the spire ending, concave ledge, mullioned windows, gray stone portal and the bell tower on the left side. Inside you can find a nave with a central altar, and lateral naves with still visible remains of a crypt and pyramidal walls probably prior to the construction of the church. After Porta Pozzi, in the homonymous square, arises the wayside cross previously described. Finally, it is possible to visit the Convent of Sant’Antionio da Padova, built in 1467 by Matteo Stendardo, composed of one church, a cloister with other spaces connected to the monastic life and an olive grove/garden. The church, dedicated to Sant’Antonio da Padova, has one nave; inside we can admire 2 engraved wooden altars, built around the XVII century by Mastro Vito Checchia, of which one is dedicated to San Francesco and the other to Sant’Antonio. In 1776 the convent was destined to be a place of theological worship, and at the beginning of the IXX century was closed and used as a barrack, while after the fall of the Napoleonic empire it was owned by the friars and became a student residence and novitiate.
Thanks to Marlena Checchia for the translation.