|Comune di Craco|
The old town of Craco
|• Total||76 km2 (29 sq mi)|
|Elevation||391 m (1,283 ft)|
|Population (December 2008)|
|• Density||10/km2 (26/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||San Nicola|
The old town was abandoned in 1963 due to recurring landslides. The abandonment has made Craco a tourist attraction and a popular filming location. In 2010, Craco has been included in the watch list of the World Monuments Fund.
Craco is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) inland from the Gulf of Taranto at the instep of the “boot” of Italy. It is typical of the hill towns of the region with mildly undulating shapes and the lands surrounding it sown with wheat. The town was built on a very steep summit for defensive reasons, giving it a stark and striking appearance and distinguishing it from the surrounding land which is characterized by soft shapes.
The centre, built on the highest side of the town, faces a ridge which runs steeply to the southwest where newer buildings exist. The town sits atop a 400-metre (1,300 ft) high cliff that overlooks the Cavone River valley. Throughout the area are many vegetation-less mounds called calanchi (Italian word for badlands) formed by intensive erosion.
Around 540, the area was called “Montedoro” and inhabited by Greeks who moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto. Tombs have been found dating from the 8th century suggesting the original settlement dates back to then. The town’s name can be dated to 1060 when the land was the possession of Archbishop Arnaldo, Bishop of Tricarico, who called the area “GRACHIUM” which means "from the little plowed field." This long association of the Church with the town had a great influence on the inhabitants.
From 1154 to 1168, the control of the village passed to Eberto who established the first feudal control over the town. Then in 1179, Roberto di Pietrapertos became the landlord of Craco. In 1276, a university was established in town. During this period in the 13th century, the landmark castle was built under the direction of Attendolo Sforza. In 1293, under Federico II, the Castle Tower became a prison. By the 15th century, four large plazas had developed in the town: Palazzo Maronna near the tower, Palazzo Grossi near the big church, Palazzo Carbone on the Rigirones property, and Palazzo Simonetti.
The population increased from 450 (1277), to 655 (1477), to 1,718 (1532) until reaching 2,590 in 1561; and averaged 1,500 in succeeding centuries. During 1656, a plague struck with hundreds dying and reducing the number of families in the town.
By 1799, the townspeople overthrew the feudal system and Innocenzo De Cesare returned to Naples, where he had studied, and promoted an independent Municipality. Subsequently, the town fell under the control of the Italian King and thereafter ruled by a period of French occupation. By 1815, the town was large enough to divide it into two districts: Torrevecchia – the highest area adjacent to the castle and tower, and Quarter della Chiesa Madre – the area adjacent to San Nicola’s Church
After the unification of Italy, Craco was conquered by Carmine Crocco and there was a growth of “brigands” in the area who plagued the town until the mid-1860s. With the end of the civil strife the greatest difficulty the town faced became environmental and geological.
From 1892 to 1922, over 1,300 Crachesi migrated to North America mainly due to poor agricultural conditions. In 2007, the descendants of the immigrants of Craco in the United States formed "The Craco Society" .
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From 1950's and onwards, the geological processes on the area worsened, creating soil instability and danger to the human population. Between 1959 and 1972, a series of landslides happened, causing several parts of the village to become severely damaged. It was deemed that there was danger of accidents if people kept on living in the town.
It is still disputed that the abandonment of the town could have been prevented by better planning or policies. Scientists have predicted the geological threat to the town as far as 1910, due to Craco's location on a hill of Pliocene sands overhanging the clay cliffs, with ravines causing progressive cracks on the soil. For safety reasons, the whole population of 1,800 residents moved to Craco Peschiera in 1963, leaving the Craco uninhabited. Nowadays, the town is not completely abandoned: the population was recorded in the number of 97 as December 2012.
Catholic monks had founded Craco, and their influence remained strong throughout the centuries. Many churches were built; one of those churches is the Church of the Observant Friars Minor dedicated to St. Peter (17th century). Now it is partially restored; with its modernization, it changed its main role, become a conference center.
The church of Santa Maria della Stella is another religious-oriented building. Having been built on the hillside, it is devoted to the Virgin Mary. The site of the chapel is the location where the statue of the Virgin and Child was reported to be miraculously discovered in the water by a shepherd. The statue of the Virgin is still housed there, although the original representation of the son was stolen and has been replaced by a more recent copy.
There is also a small new church in Sant’ Angelo, located in the only remaining section of the hilltop that is still inhabited. This church houses the religious relic of the mummified body of Vincenzo, Martyr of Craco - the martyred patron saint of the town. It is still actively served with fresh flowers brought into the church daily. Tradition says that San Vincenzo was a soldier in the Legion of Tebea, the army of General Massimiliano in 286 AD. He was martyred after not renouncing Christianity, refusing to worship as a god the Roman Emperor of his day, who was Marcus Aurelius. His body was brought to the town in 1769 and was placed in the new church after a big part of the old town collapsed. A story is told of another town, Pisticci, claiming the relic should be in Sant' Angelo A group of Pisticci inhabitants tried to take the relic back to their church, but along the way it became apparent that the relic was too heavy for them to carry very far; therefore, it was abandoned on the road where the people of Craco found it and returned it to the town.
There is yet another church in the old town: Chiesa Madre (di San Nicola Vescovo - St. Nicholas Bishop); it is the largest church in the village.
When the collapse of the old town quarters happened, the statues and interior decorations were moved to the new church which now represents the center of the new town, Craco Peschiera. Although modern in appearance on the outside, the historical statues inside give the image of old Craco.
Nowadays, there are still several religious festivals which are celebrated in the town:
- Madonna della Stella Festival – first Sunday of May in Craco Vecchia
- San Nicola Festival – second Sunday in August
- Madonna della Stella Festival – second Sunday of August in Craco Peschiera
- Madonna di Monserrato Festival – third Sunday of September
- St. Vincenzo Martire Fair – fourth Sunday of October
- St. Vincenzo Fair – fourth Saturday of October in Craco Vecchia
A local market fair is still celebrated once each month in Craco Peschera, based on the sale and purchase of mostly agricultural and cattle produce from the surrounding areas.
Because of its unique and particular landscape Craco has been the setting of many movies. In The Passion of The Christ (2004) by Mel Gibson, Craco is the town that can be seen in the scene of the hanging of Judas.
Other films shot in the ghost town include:
- La lupa (1953), by Alberto Lattuada
- Christ Stopped at Eboli (1979), by Francesco Rosi
- King David (1985), by Bruce Beresford
- Saving Grace (1986), by Robert M. Young
- The Sun Also Shines at Night (1990), by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
- The Nymph (1996), by Lina Wertmüller
- The Nativity Story (2006), by Catherine Hardwicke
- Quantum of Solace (2008), by Marc Forster
- Basilicata coast to coast (2010), by Rocco Papaleo
- Murder in the dark (2013), by Dagen Merrill
- French band Ödland filmed at Craco the video clip for the song "Santa Lucia", from the album Sankta Lucia (2011).
- German pianist Hauschka composed the song "Craco" about the ghost town, from the album Abandoned City (2014).
- All demographics and other statistics from the Italian statistical institute (Istat)
- "Hauschka – UK Headline Tour & 'Elizabeth Bay' Video Premiere". folkradio.co.uk. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
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