Translated by ©Maria Elena Rossiello
Welcome to Cavour Square, the cultural, historical and geographic heart of the city. In this place, among churches and aristocratic dwellings, “Porta Baresana” and the Angevin Defensive Tower can also be seen. From here the Trajan Way, known today as “Via Francigena”, once led to Bari.
“Porta Baresana” is one of the five entrances located along the town walls, and it’s the most imposing of all. It was oriented towards Bari and takes its name – “Baresana” – from this city. Despite the multiple restorations, the door shows a seventeenth-century style (the rebuilding – as shown on the coat of arms – was supervised by master Giuseppe Dell’Aquila in 1621). The structure is typical of the Renaissance.
The door has a rectangular base and the entrance is marked by a rounded arch, framed by Tuscan pilasters (pillars encompassed within the wall). The pilasters are closed by a cornice on the top. A copy of the oil on board predella (a pictorial panel) is located on the architrave. It shows the twelve patron saints of the city: St. Antony Abbot, St. Augustine, St. Quirico, St. Francis Xavier, St. Blaise, St. Rocco, St. Michael, St. Francis from Paola, St. Dominick, St. Nicholas and St. Vito who are all standing beside Virgin Mary.
In 1834 a statue of Virgin Mary, guardian of the city, was located on top of the door so as to remember the miracle that took place on May 26, 1734. The words “Posuerunt me custodem = I was put here to guard” are carved in the base.
Below the statue, there is the city crest showing two lions (that symbolize nobles and plebeians) with an olive tree in the middle. It is the symbol of Bitonto as well as its greatest source of wealth. Between its branches, five crows can be seen; they represent the five noble families that had their feuds in Bitonto: Caldora, Ventimiglia, Orsini, Acquaviva d’Aragona and Cordoba.
The band below the crest holds the motto: “Ad pacem promptum designat oliva botuntum”, which means: “Bitonto’s olive tree symbolizes peace”.
Angevin Defensive Tower
Once directly connected to Porta Baresana, the Angevin Defensive Tower is the biggest and most resistant among the twenty-eight towers located along the town walls.
The building is circular and has a diameter of 16,10 meters. The base is 4,90 meters thick and is made of big blocks of calcareous tuff.
The thick masonry work is interrupted by the main door and by the windows put at different heights all around the perimeter. The crenellation at the top frames the entire tower. Inside the building, there are three rooms linked by fortified hallways.
The rooms on both the first and the third floor are circular, while the second floor is similar to “Castel del Monte”: it is octagonal with a groined vault. The fireplace embellished with small columns proves that the castellan’s noble family used to live here.
The excavations around the tower brought the ancient pillboxes back to life, as well as the triangular fortresses, the moat and the drawbridge that connected the tower to the adjacent Square.
Today the Tower, after a massive renovation, hosts the Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art.
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Latitude: 41.1078 – Longitude: 16.69109