Formerly home to an important Roman colony, which guaranteed the control of the border with the neighboring Samnite regions, after the disorders of the early Middle Ages, Lucera once again became a strategic center for territorial rule, first by the Normans, then by the Swabians and finally by the Angevins. Here the Emperor Frederick II, on a hill surrounded by extensive oak woods, erected the Palatium, the imperial residence guarded by a lively community of Saracens, of which some remains can be found inside the turreted Angevin city walls.
The Angevins, in addition to adapting the Swabian fortress to new defensive techniques, began a policy of restoration of Christianity to eradicate the cult brought by the “Infidels” from the city. Some churches date back to this period, including Saint Francis, Saint Dominic and especially the monumental Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the city, symbolically built on the site of the destroyed Saracen mosque. The building, with three naves with spaces of clear Cistercian inspiration, is a masterpiece of medieval art in Puglia and preserves valuable treasures, such as the altar from the Federica Palace and the fourteenth-century frescoes of the apse chapels, while the series of stone sculptures they are a true paradigm of Gothic statuary.
In the following centuries, the fourteenth-century churches were enriched with new works, which testify to the rank maintained by the city even in subsequent dominations. Particularly in Saint Dominic we highlight the canvas with “the miracle of Soriano” work of the ‘600 by Massimo Stanzione and a splendid wooden choir of 1640; in Saint Francis a sixteenth-century sepulcher and several 18th-century frescoes are on display. In this period the church of St. Matthew to Carmine was built, which preserves a beautiful marble altar surmounted by a painting by Francesco de Mura, a well-known Neapolitan artist, depicting Our Lady of Sorrows.