The bread of Matera is not only tasty but is also a strong symbol of the traditional local culture. In the past the process of making bread, which at present has the IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) certification, was a sacred moment. The night before the production, the peasant housewife began the preparation of bread by restoring the culture yeast (natural yeast) that she kept jealously for an entire week. She added water and flour to the natural yeast, and leaved it to rise all night long.
In the morning, the housewife started to knead the dough. She pressed and turned the mass (dough) with the fists clenched basting occasionally with salt warm water. At the sunrise, when the husband woke up to go to the fields, she covered the bed to keep the heat of the man, and in that bed she put the loafs of dough to rise. The mass is woman, and only a man can fecundate it.
This was the most important moment of the production process on which depended the success of the bread. During this solemn moment the woman cut the loaf of bread with a sign of the cross by telling this words: “Rise bread, just as Jesus grew. In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Than she gave the bread to the baker apprentice to cook it in one of the public furnaces of the city.
At the entrance of Residence San Gennaro you can see one of these old furnaces. How they can recognised they own bread? The bread stamp were used to mark the loafs. In this room you can see a typical loaf of bread marked with the family and the city stamps.
In the streets of the historic center you can still found woodcarvers that realize bread stamps. On the bottom were sculpted the name initial letters of the heads of households or a family distinctive sign, and the top was decorated with animals, architectural elements or with symbols of virility and prosperity.