The Museum Hub's base is in Bari’s ancient city centre, in an ex-convent
How to get here
To reach the ex-Convent of San Francesco della Scarpa in Bari by public transport (bus), visitors can calculate their routes in real-time on the website amtab.it.
The Bari Centrale railway station is a 15 minute drive by car, approximately. For further information, please visit trenitalia.com.
The Bari Palese Airport is a 25 minute drive by car, approximately. For further information see aeroportidipuglia.it/homepagebari.
An archaeological investigation began during the restoration works of the 1970s, and revealed the early settlements of the area. The excavation carried out in the apse of the convent’s church produced evidence of an inhabited Bronze Age hut settlement, an enchytrismòs burial site dated between the archaic and classical age (VI-V BC) and the remains of a residential area of the Roman city, with phases dating to the republican period and the early imperial age.
In 1220 the Dottula family granted the chapel of Saint Catherine to the Friars Minor, including a large area on which the convent structure was eventually extended over time. The church, dedicated to St. Francis, was conceived as an extension of the chapel of St. Catherine. Its construction, interrupted by prolonged periods of inactivity, ended sometime between 1306 and 1321.
The iconographic single-nave structure of the church – originally with a wooden trussed roof – includes the choir, covered by a roof in squared ribbed stone pointed arches, ending in four angular columns surmounted by capitals, each one different in design and in decorative details and phytomorphs. Two lateral areas were connected to the main space, placed on the left side of the apse, both with raised crossed vaults, marked by ribs resting on four terminal corbels at the height of the abacuses.
The chapel dedicated to St. Catherine, became part of the new church, on the right side of the apse. Its wall structure was probably used to support a bell tower, of which only a few traces remain.
With the advent of the Anjou-Durazzo dynasty (1380-1442), work resumed on constructing the wing adjacent to the sacristy, stretching from South East to North West. The works included an oratory and the refectory with an adjoining kitchen. In the same period the construction of new cells in the friars’ dormitory area was completed, situated in the North Western end of the wing, attached to the existent area, facing the sea.
In 1436, members of the Franciscan Order of Observant Minors arrived in Bari, probably marking the beginning of the distinction between Observant Minors (who wore clogs) and Conventual Minors. The construction of the quadrilateral-plan cloister began in 1511.
The restoration carried out after the earthquakes of 1631 was officially terminated in 1672. On this occasion the restored church was ceremoniously re-consecrated. In 1715 the chapel of St. Catherine was restored, adapted to support the bell tower.
From 1798-1815 the entire complex was requisitioned by French troops, a military presence that continued under Bourbon rule from 1815-1860: a prolonged period of decline. After the unification of Italy, part of the convent was entrusted to sacred orders, but Italian military usage continued until 1943, when it was requisitioned by the Allied Military Command to house British troops. On April 9 1945, the complex was severely damaged by the explosion of an Allied cargo ship. It was subsequently used as a refugee centre.