Materasum Ipogeo

Hypogeum Materasum


Useful Information

Location: Recinto XX Settembre 7, 75100, Matera.
(40.667720236893494, 16.60678092824735)
Open: currently closed.
All year daily 9-13, 16-19, last entyr 18:30.
Night visits for groups 20-23:30, with reservation.
[2021]
Fee: currently closed.
Adults EUR 5.
Groups (10+): Adults with personal guide EUR 8, Night Visit EUR 10.
[2021]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Ar=1,200 m², VR=12 m.
Guided tours: self guided, D=30 min. Audioguides in Italiano - Italian English Français - French
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Materasum Ipogeo, Recinto XX Settembre 7, 75100, Matera, Tel: +39-331-1054031, Tel: +39-0835-336852. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1993 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
20-JAN-2020 closed for renovation.
AUG-2020 reopening postponed due to COVID-19.

Description

Ipogeo Materasum is obviously an artificial name, some caves in the Sassi which are not a typical cave house were opened as a museum. Ipogeo or hypogeum from Greek hypo (under) and gaia (mother earth or goddess of earth) is the term often used for prehistoric underground temples or tombs. It is also sometimes used for prehistoric and antique underground structures of various uses. In this case it obviously does not have a certain meaning, it was just selected because it is a funny word. The same with Materasum, which sounds Roman but is actually an artificial word without any meaning. As such it is sometimes written MateraSum.

The underground structure here is rather exceptional. The caverns are much bigger than normal and there is quite a labyrinth. Most caves were rather small, cave houses for a single family. This chambers are sometimes church like, without being a church, have vaults, which is simply a matter of stability. The most likely guess is that this was actually an underground quarry where stones for the buildings on the surface were quarried. Being too big and too far from the entrances most of the huge rooms were not very useful as cave houses, and so they were abandoned.

And while the cellars are quite impressive, the venue which operates it seems pretty uninspired. Their website offers no historic facts, no explanation, not even a few stories about the people who renovated it. Its unclear who operates the site but it seems to be some kind of tourism company, it completely lacks the enthusiasm of a non-profit organisation. Being more expensive than most other museums its a short visit to a huge but empty underground structure of unexplained origin and use. This is probably the place you want to visit only after you have seen all the others before.