Italy // Basilicata and Calabria //


Thirty kilometres down the coast from Sibari, ROSSANO was the foremost Byzantine centre in the south, and the focus of a veritable renaissance of literature, theology and art between the eighth and eleventh centuries, a period to which the town’s greatest treasures belong. These days, its coastal offshoot of Rossano Scalo (site of the train station) has far outstripped its inland parent in terms of size and bustle, and most of the holiday-makers who frequent its beaches never even get round to visiting the hilltop town, 7km up an awkward winding road – something that has helped to preserve the old centre from excessive development.

Behind the cathedral, the Museo Diocesano contains the famed codex purpureus Rossanensis, or Purple Codex, a unique sixth-century manuscript on reddish-purple parchment illustrating the life of Christ. The book, which was brought from Palestine by monks fleeing the Muslim invasions, is open at one page, but you can leaf through a copy and see, among other things, how the Last Supper was originally depicted, with Christ and his disciples not seated but reclining on cushions round the table, and all eating from the same plate.

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