The votive niche in Puglia: art and ritual.
They are the testimony to an ancient and authentic faith, to a past that has left its signs, unforgettable and fascinating. Puglia is full of votive niches: from north to south of the region, just walk through the streets of ancient villages or country, in order to bump into the most diverse expressions of devotions to the Saints and the Virgin Mary.
Small niches appear in the alleys, decorated with candles and flowers, with frescoes dating back to the early 1800s.
Their name derives from the Latin word “aedicula”, that means small temple, tabernacle, small sanctuary.
It seems that the votive niches have remote origins, even dating back to ancient Egypt and the Greeks. They were then repudiated by the first Christians and later re-admitted in the Middle Ages.
The votive niche was commissioned by the owner of a house or a group of inhabitants of the same neighborhood to thank the saints for a danger escaped or to prevent earthquakes, floods or to show gratitude or again, to remember a deceased loved one or to receive protection.
Still today it is possible to meet people who, passing in front of the kiosk, make a sign of the cross or rows of elderly ladies intent on reciting the rosary in front of these small temples.
They also had the function of reassuring the traveler along his journey at various crucial points of his path, especially at intersections and staging points.
Only in the ancient city of Bari, it seems we can count 240 votive shrines and, going to many other centers in the north of Bari, it is possible to meet ancient ones, a symbol of a very strong and felt popular religious feeling.