Beauty and mystery are the most appropriate words to describe this village in Basilicata. Acerenza is indeed a graceful village, perched on top of a hill (833 m. above sea level), where the glance of the visitors is captured by the high walls and the majestic cathedral, emerging from the narrow alleys. Not surprisingly, the village has won a place in the charts of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
This beautiful place hides some mysteries, too. For centuries, Acerenza has been a resting point for the crusaders headed to the Holy Land. Some even say that Ugo dei Pagani, the founder of the Knights Templars, was born in Basilicata, in a village not far from Acerenza. In the cathedral, historians have found several mysterious puzzling sculptures representing symbols linked to the Templars.
Acerenza has even more mysteries to share with its visitors: a niche inside the crypt of the cathedral is said to be the hiding place of the Holy Grail, and some experts say that the same cathedral contains the mortal remains of the daughter of Vlad III of Wallachia, best known as Dracula.
TRE GOOD REASONS TO VISIT ACERENZA
1. THE CATHEDRAL
It may seem strange to find such a big church in such a small village (less than 3000 inhabitants), but the Cathedral of Acerenza is a proof a glorious past. This cathedral was erected between the XI and the XIII century on the remains of an ancient roman temple dedicated to Herules, and even now it preserves its ancient – and almost magical – sacredness.
Entwined human and animal figures decorate the main door of the cathedral, while indoor visitors can admire paintings dated XVI century by Antonio Stabile (a local artist). Renaissance frescoes by Giovanni Todisco decorate the crypt, built in Renaissance style.
2. NIGHTS OF KNIGHTS TEMPLARS
Walking the narrow alleys, at night, one could almost see some ancient warriors moving stealthy, hiding treasures. Indeed, Acerenza was as a Norman military settlement against the Arab.
Later, it was a starting point for the knights headed to the Holy Land. In many ancient buildings it is still possible to see symbols linked to the Knight Templars.
3. THE MISTERIOUS DRAGON
The story concerning the burying of Maria Balsa, the alleged daughter of Vlad Dracula, is more recent and controversial. This thesis is supported by the discovery of a winged dragon (Vlad’s symbol) on the wall of the cathedral.
In addition, the name Balsa is thought to derive from the word Balcana (literally “from the Balcans”) and many have found, in the cathedral, symbols linked to this region and to the Vlad family.
We do not know if this story is real or if it is just a legend; in any case, it adds even more charm to this beautiful village.
FOR FURTER INFORMATION PLEASE READ OUR ITINERARY TO DISCOVER VENOSA AND ACERENZA, THROUGH HISTORY AND MISTERY!