|Location:||6 km southeast of Ceglie Messsapica. Follow SP26 south, at the cemetry turn left on Via Madonna della grotta.|
|Classification:||Karst cave. Cave Church|
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|14th century||church built.|
|1565||church assigned to the mother church of Ceglie by the archbishop of Brindisi.|
|1880||owned by Tommaso Maggi.|
|MAY-2007||web blog inspires a group of supporters to protect the church.|
Grotta di Madonna della Grotta (Cave of the Madonne of the Cave) is today located under a church. This church was erected by monks of an order founded by San Basilio (St. Basil). The monks were forced to leave the East in the first half of the 9th century, to escape persecution by the Emperor Leo the Isaurian and iconoclastic struggles that followed. When they arrived in Apulia they founded various communities, often around a cave church. The current church was built in the 14th century by the architect Domenico de Juliano in late gothic style. During the 16th century the church was rather famous and a pilgrimage destination. It seems it was part of a monastery, but today it is privatly owned by the surrounding farm. The church is silently deteriorating, but a few years ago a blogger caused a sort of movement on the web, so there is now a group of friends of the church who try to protect it.
The curch has strange facade with two asymmetric belltowers. The bells are missing, only the holes in the wall remain. There is an entrance room with some frescoes showing the virgin with the child, but the far end of the room is a staircase leading down into the cave. The cave is actually a single passage, almost straight and about 80 m long. The first half is rather spacious and forms the underground church. The cave is equipped with a stone altar and some niches. Then the cave narrows and a secon par with some narrow crawl assages follows. This part has some nice speleothems.