A journey through the historical-artistic past of Basilicata is undoubtedly fascinating. Here, more than anywhere else, history explains art and art tells the history of the region. Contested by both the Orient and Occident, Basilicata experienced great artistic moments from the very time that man appeared. Devastation by theft, landslides, earthquakes or other catastrophes are the tributes that the Lucanian artistic heritage has given to history and which does not lend itself to systematic analysis. This patrimony, as precious as much as it is varied and far from the usual stylistic canons, has always inspired the artistic artisan, who makes any culture he comes in contact with his own. The collection of ceramic materials gathered in the museums of the region reveal a long tradition of pottery-making and the use of clay, which abounds. One is reminded of the Neolithic culture from Serra d'Alto, with their ceramics decorated with graffiti and paintings with spirals, triangles or diamond-shaped figures on a bright brown background, and the splendour of the Greek colonies supplied kilns and schools of decoration to the painters of Pisticci and of Policoro. Not to forget also the Roman period with floor mosaics or the marvellous sarcophagus of Rapolla from the 2nd century B.C., which can be considered a phenomenon of imported art, since it originally came from Asia Minor. The importation of art then became common during the feudal epoch and continued until 1600. The antique Pietra Pagana (Pescopagano) today remains a reminder of Gothic domination, where idols and inscriptions dedicated to the god Silvano have been uncovered. Later, new cultural impulses appeared thanks to the spread of Greek-Oriental monasticism, which started in the 7th century and continued throughout the Middle Ages. This was the period when the monks arrived in Lucania as followers of S. Basilio. Fleeing from Iconoclastic persecution and from the rampant spread of the Arab population; animated by the need for a more contemplative life, they built numerous hermitages, 'laure' and monasteries, above all on the Murgia of Matera and within the city itself. The sculpted architecture and frescoed walls greatly influenced the artistic life of the Materano, where there is a very high concentration of Rupestrian churches (155 ascertained today) in Pollino and the Agri and Sinni Valleys, where the frescoed remains of the S. Angelo Monastery on Mount Raparo, founded by S. Vitale, can still be seen. The history of art in Basilicata usually begins with the frescoes of the Cripta del Peccato Originale (crypt of the Original Sin) in Matera. With the Norman-Swabian Middle Ages we have, imposing fortifications, above all in Basilicata. The counts and barons reinforced the small pre-existing Byzantine and Longobard fortresses or built new roccaforti (strongholds) and castles: the most important are those relating to Frederick of Swabia located in Melfi, Lagopesole and Palazzo S. Gervasio. Also in the religious environment, there are tangible signs of artistic vivacity. New Benedictine settlements arose and new artists were called upon to direct and decorate them: Sarolo da Muro, Melchiorre da Montalbano, Noslo di Remerio, and Mele da Stigliano. Examples of the Romanesque style, with influences from various Italian regions as well as Cluniac Gothic, are: the Abbey of SS. Trinità of Venosa, The Acerenza Cathedral, the bell tower of the Melfi Cathedral, S. Maria of Anglona, the Matera Cathedral and Rapolla Cathedral, the Sanctuary of S. Maria of Pierno, the Abbey of S. Michele Arcangelo in Montescaglioso, S. Michele in Potenza, the small church of S. Mary of the Graces in Capodigiano at Muro Lucano, S. Giovanni Battista and S. Domenico in Matera and the Duomo in Atella. The Angevin Age is represented by the frescoes of the Trinità of Venosa and of the Rupestrian churches of S. Mary of the Valley in Matera, S. Antuono at Oppido Lucano, S. Lucia at Rapolla and of S. Margherita at Melfi. The practice of painting the rupestrian churches continued, but the spread of the Franciscans and their churches, towards the end of the 13th century, introduced an innovative vein in Lucanian painting (crypt of S. Francis in Irsina). The crisis of the Kingdom of Naples led to the division of the territory into small states held in the hands of feudal lords, who built new or restored the old castles: such as Melfi, Miglionico, Valsinni and Episcopia. Today, survived towers can be seen at S. Mauro Forte and at Picerno, but the castles of Moliterno, Brienza, Cancellara and Lavello are also beautiful. Some have been demolished, others reduced to ruins; yet together with entire abandoned centres like Craco, they constitute remains that signal the passage of time and create an atmosphere that is rich in memories. With the Aragons, we have a further period of fortification along the Jonian and Tyrrhenian coasts. The castles of Venosa, Matera and Bernalda date from this period. Sculpture is represented by the valuable 'durazzeschi' portals of S. Francesco at Potenza and of S. Antonio at Tricarico, or by reminiscence catalane (Catalan traces), as on the beautiful door of the Convent of the Minori Osservanti (Lesser Observants) in Rivello. It is in the Cathedral of Matera, with the stone Nativity scene by Altobello Persio (1534) and with the Chapel of the Annunciation (also in stone) by his son Giulio, that the 1500s and the Adriatic Renaissance influence are affirmed. Important hints of the Renaissance can also be seen in the Abbey of S. Michele Arcangelo at Montescaglioso or in the frescoed pilasters of S. Donato of Ripacandida. The phenomenon of imported and imitated art takes on vigour: an example is the Polittico di Cima by Conegliano preserved in the church of S. Francesco at Miglionico. It also witnesses the emergence of local painters like Giovanni de Gregorio, known as the 'Pietrafesa' (stonecutter), Carlo Sellitto, Pier Antonio and the brothers Antonio and Constantino Costabile. The cloister of the monastery of S. Maria of Orsoleo contains the frescoes by Giovanni Todisco of Abriola, protagonist of the Lucanian 1500s, who also painted the Renaissance Ferrillo crypt of the Cathedral of Acerenza. A new generation of feudal lords built new residences: Palazzo Pignatelli at Marsico Nuovo and Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) at Tricarico are only some of the examples. The cultural reawakening is due to the Lucanian Baroque. In Matera, Palazzo Lanfranchi is the centre of urbanistic expansion, followed by the Church of the Purgatory and the convent of the Clarisse di S. Chiara and S. Francesco d'Assisi and the Palazzo del Sedile, today the site of the Conservatory. An artistic synthesis of the Middle Ages of 1800 is represented by the fortified farms, originating on monastic settlements or near seasonal pastures. Among these it is important to mention the farm castle of S. Basilio at Pisticci and the Farm Palace of Scanzano Jonico. Interesting works can be found, such as the church of the rural Borgo (village) La Martella built by Ludovico Quaroni. Important contemporary artists are Joseph Stella, Luigi Guerricchio, and Mauro Masi, but also many others.