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Past Watch Site
HISTORIC CENTER OF CRACO (Centro Storico di Craco)
- WMF Program:2010 Watch
Towering above its mesmerizing landscape, the town of Craco, Italy, dates to 1000 A.D., when its magnificent Norman tower was erected. Archaeological discoveries, however, have found that Mycenaean settlements developed the land between the 10th and 9th centuries B.C. Perched atop a ridge of rolling hills carved out by the serpentine Cavone River, Craco was used in Norman times as an outpost, scouting the vast expanse for oncoming Saracen invasions.
By 1500, the small town had begun to take shape. White stone buildings, reflecting the light-tan clay of the surrounding earth, began to emerge around the original tower, clinging to the sloping hill. The local population continued to climb, reaching 2,600 by 1561. In 1630, Craco established a permanent monastic order with the construction of the Monastery of St. Peter. The monastery was an important addition to the community, influencing science, religion, and the economy in a society sustained through the production of grains, vegetables, wine, oil, and cotton.
A landslide in 1991 led to the complete abandonment the town, and slope instability continues to threaten the preservation of its history and architectural wonder. Protection of this mountaintop settlement poses tremendous technical difficulties and speaks to the broader challenge of preserving abandoned townscapes.
Following the 2010 Watch, the municipality secured regional and EU funding to set up the Parco Museale Scenografico di Craco and create a new visitation route through the ruined town. Regulations for access, research, and film production have been established, while cultural activities including concerts, exhibitions, and film screenings continue to be organized. The Italian government has carried out a number of conservation projects, including interior and exterior restoration of the Monastery of St. Peter and a former high school that now houses the park administration office.October 2014