Santa Maria di Siponto is just off the SS 89 Garganica highway, 3km from Manfredonia. The church was built in 1117 over an existing early Christian structure. The architectural style is Romanica Pugliese, Pugliese Romanesque with Byzantine and Islamic influences evident in its pure, simple lines and geometric patterns. The building is unusual as it is square and there are 2 independent churches; the upper church and the crypt below, with an external staircase.
To the left of the church is the Parco Archeologico di Santa Maria di Siponto. Until March 2016, this consisted of the ruins of a Paleochristian basilica (250 AD) with a semi-circular apse and mosaic pavement, and the partially excavated remains of Ancient Roman Sipontium. Now the space once occupied by the basilica has been transformed into a magnificent sculpture titled ‘Dove l’arte riconstruisce il tempo’ which means ‘Where art reconstructs time’. The permanent installation took 3 months to construct and is built right onto the foundations of the archeological remains.
The installation/sculpture is made of layers of wire mesh that overlap and intersect, interpreting and reclaiming the space and volume once occupied by a structure that no longer exists. The lightness and transparency of the material makes it look like a hologram of the original church…it is there, but it is no longer there. The site is also illuminated at night, creating a ‘ghostly’ effect. Contemporary art and archeology intersect to form a link with the past. 14 m high and weighing 6,000 kg, this is probably the largest structure in the world made entirely of wire mesh.
I have been to Santa Maria di Siponto many times since I was a child. I am a total archeology nerd, and I was excited to see this construction breathing new life into this small archeological site, relatively unknown outside of Puglia. It feels like the basilica has been resurrected from the ruins. I have not seen anything like this before and it is already a distinctive landmark, especially since it is visible from the highway. In 5 months it has already brought 100,000 visitors to the site and contributed to the local economy.
The artist, Edoardo Tresoldi, a 29 year old set designer and sculptor in Roma, is known for his monumental metallic wire mesh sculptures, integrating into their surroundings. His website is still under construction. He must be too busy making great art!Santa Maria di Siponto is definitely worth a visit. If you have plans to visit the Gargano area, especially Monte Sant’ Angelo, San Giovanni Rotondo, Manfredonia or Mattinata, it is fairly close by. It is definitely easiest to get there with your own vehicle, although it is possible to get to Foggia, then Manfredonia by train or bus and then taxi to the site. Buon Viaggio, Cristina