Situated at 819 meters above sea level Potenza boasts antique origins. Even though it was located near to faithful Ancient Greek colonies, the first certain traces are dated to the Roman domination: the settlement of Potentia was at first a Roman "municipium", but after the Battle of the Metaurus, when the Lucani of Potenza sided against Rome, the city was reduced to the status of military colony "praefectura". After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was raided by the Barbarians and then dominated over the centuries by Byzantine, Norman, Anjou and Bourbon forces.
A beautiful trace of the Roman Ages are: the mosaic found between the rests of a luxury Roman villa in the district of Malvaccaro and the bridge of San Vito, built at the times of Emperor Diocleziano.
Built in one of the highest points of the city, the Cathedral of San Gerardo, actually features a Neoclassic style, after the refurbishments of late '700, completed by the architect Antonio Macri, apprentice of Vanvitelli. Only the rose window and the apse remain of the old building of the XII century. The Cathedral preserves a Roman sarcophagus, in which the bishop Michele De Torres deposed the mortal remains of San Gerardo. Near to the side entrance rises a massive bell tower, built in four stories and completed with a pyramid shape spire.
The Church of San Francesco of 1274, with a portal and bell tower of '400, preserves a wonderful multicolour wooden Cross (XVII century) in the apse, frescos of Santa Chiara and San Francesco in the two corners and monumental tomb of Donato de Grassis.
One of the oldest churches of the city is the one entitled to San Michele Arcangelo, founded in 1178. The church was built in typical Romanesque style, divided in one large main nave and two aisles, each one completed by an apse. The ceiling of the nave is a wooden truss, illuminated by three simple arches. Inside are preserved frescos of '500 such as the one that features San Michele that kills a dragon. These frescos are all in good but not perfect conditions.
The Church of the SS. Trinità built on an already existing church of XI century, was consecrated for the second time in mid '400 and featured one main nave, two aisles and side chapels. In the '800 the Church was completely destroyed by an earthquake and had to be completely rebuilt. The new building, a simple plan features one unique nave with large windows on the higher levels and with a series of connecting side chapels. The coffer ceiling is decorated with gold elements.
The city doors are the old entrances to the old city center. Three are still visible: Porta San Giovanni, Porta San Luca and Porta San Gerardo. The other two Portamendola and Portasalza, seriously damaged by earthquakes over the centurie, were pulled down to give space to the modern city center.
Torre Guevara, built by the Longobardi around year 1000, was the city's fortified castle, whilst today refurbished, is the Art Gallery. A cylinder shape building, that dominates the Basento valley and during the Middle Ages, the fortified tower was an important strategic defense against the Barbarian raids.