Bisceglie, Province of Barletta Andria Trani, Puglia

Bisceglie coatofarms Bisceglie is a town of remarkable historical past, rich of ancient palaces, churches and also prehistoric monuments. Originally a Norman stronghold surrounded by walls, it has spread in recent centuries outside the walls and is today a lively agricultural and trading center, with a hinterland cultivated with vineyards, almond and olive trees, and a remarkable coastline of bays, promontories and sea grottos.


  • Altitude: 15 mt a.s.l
  • Population: about 53,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 70052
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 080
  • Patron Saint: St. Antonio abate


The area was inhabited in prehistorical times, as shown by findings in the grottoes of Santacroce and the presence of megalithic dolmens. The name may derive from the Latin Vigiliae, that was used for the military outpost surrounded by walls and defended by seven towers on Via Traiana, or alternatively from the non-classical Latin Vescellae meaning forested area. The oak tree that for time immemorial has been the symbol of the town may be connected to pre-Roman times, when populations coming from the Arcadia region, who worshipped Jupiter Dodoneus, usually represented by an oaktree, settled in the area.

In the 11th century AD Norman count Peter I fortified the town and built a tall sighting tower, the Torre Maestra, to defend from Saracens raids the population of the 9 villages of Lombard stock in the countryside (Cirignano, Giano, Pacciano, Sagina, San Nicola, Salandro, Santo Stefano, Sant'Andrea, Zappino). In 1059 Bisceglie also had its own bishop. In later centuries the town became a flourishing fishing and trading maritime port. With the Anjou conquest, it became a fiefdom of the Del Balzo family. In the late 15th century powerful walls, able to stand cannon fire, were built, and in 1499 the town was assigned as dowry of Lucrezia Borgia to Alfonso d'Aragona, who was murdered and left one son, Rodrigo, who also died young with no heirs, so Bisceglie returned under direct royal power and throughout the 16th century acquired a remarkable autonomy.

What to see

  • The church of St. Luigi, with the sepulchre of Louis of Anjou, the brother of king of France, who died here of wounds after a battle against Charles of Durazzo in 1384. The inside of the church is full of beautiful works, and splendidly engraved.
  • The Torre Maestra and the Castle, the former a sighting tower 27 meters high, both built in Norman times, while of the latter, built probably by Norman count Peter I, are extant three majestic towers, part of the original walls and the small church of San Giovanni in Castro.
  • The Cathedral of San Pietro, built on a previous church in the 12th century and consecrated in 1295, to preserve the remains of the 3 saints Mauro, Sergio and Pantaleone, martyrs in 117 AD, whose bodies had been found in Sagina in 1167 and disputed among the towns of Andria, Ruvo and Bisceglie. The tradition says that the relics were placed on a wagon drawn by oxen, and the animals left free to go on theyr own way: the town towards which they would move was to be the custodian of the saints. The oxen slipped in the mud 4 kn from Bisceglie and stopped there in a place called "Pedata dei Santi", where the tradition says there is still trace of the wagon.
  • The church of Santa Margherita founded in 1197 by Falco Falconi, a judge of Henry VI, a beautiful example of Apulian Romanesque architecture, with only one nave, where a precious alabaster urn wa kept (now it is in the Archaeological museum) as well as two Byzantine paintings on wood representing Santa Marguerite and St. Nicholas, preserved today in the Pinacoteque of Bari. Along the left side are three magnificent tombs, among the most celebrated in Southern Italy, of the Falcone family, the central sculpted by Pietro Facitulo of Bari, the third and smallest one by Anseramo di Trani, two famous Apulian artists of the Middle Ages.
  • The church of St. Adoeno, one of the most ancient in Apulia, dedicated to Saint Adoeno Dado, Bishop of Rouen and protector of Normandy, was built according to the tradition by the Norman soldiers themselves in 1074. Though originally in the Romanesque style, it was refurbished in the Baroque period. The extremely peculiar facade contains six 12th century sculptures, four representing the forms symbols of the Gospel - man, eagle, bull, lion - two representing a lion and a lioness giving birth, a symbol of Resurrection. The most interesting piece left of the ancient times is the baptismal font, a work of great artistry possibly connected to the Acceptus school, with engraved images where the symbols of the facade are repeated together with a blessing Christ and St. John the Baptist.
  • The beautiful bays in the Pantano-Ripalta area, with a typical reddish colour due to the presence of clay, such as the Cala Rossa and Cala Pantano, and along the coast marine grottoes inhabited by man in antiquity, as the Zembro, Briganti and Ripalta grottos, accessible from the sea.
  • The mysterious Dolmens of Albarosa, Chianca, Giano, Frisari, Paladini, in the countryside of Bisceglie at a distance of about 1.5 km from each other, possibly megalithic sepulchres of the Middle Bronze Age (3000 to 1000 BC); the "Dolmen della Chianca" about 4 Km from the town, is the biggest in Europe.

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