The church is located in the shelter of the walls of Ostuni. The sacred building was erected on a pre-existing chapel, named after Santa Maria della Porticella. The name porticella (literally small door), derives from the presence, once upon a time, of a small door dating back to the Angevin era, which allowed access inside the hamlet. On the wall of this small door, a niche was carved, with a miraculous image of the Holy Mary. The story tells that for about a month, every day a poor widow, mother of three daughters, would go to this niche to look after it. In exchange of this worship, the poor widow punctually found a loaf of bread and a coin. Soon the story spread around the village, and therefore the niche became a pilgrimage destination. Thanks to the money coming from the alms and the legacies for the graces received, the step towards the erection of a small church was short, a worthy abode for the miraculous image.
This chapel surely already existed at the beginning of the 16th century, with the name of Santa Maria della Porticella, and towards the end of the 16th century, on behest of the chaplain, the rector Nicola Antonio Anglano finally decided to expand the original structure, and to change the name to Santa Maria della Stella. Surely this name change stemmed from the presence in the church of a 16th century canvas of the Madonna con la stella caudata, depicted according to the Byzantine models; it is the symbol of the virginity of Our Lady before, during and after childbirth.
Between 1835 and 1838, the church underwent the umpteenth refurbishment, heading towards its modern lay-out. The building façade is marked by simple pilasters and by a fragmented spandrel with a window in the middle. The only outstanding element is the lytic statue of the Holy Mary, which towers over the entrance portal, marked by a double moulded cornice.
The interior has a rectangular hall, divided by two spans, with a rectangular apse at the bottom. The 18th century, precious wooden altar, located on the high altar, is of great artistic interest. This work was originally kept in the chapel of the Santissimo Sacramento of the cathedral and then it was transferred to the church of the Madonna della Stella, on behest of the Bishop Pietro Consiglio. The 18th century statue of the Holy Mary, perhaps of Neapolitan origin, stands out in the niche in the middle of the altar.
The solemn, religious celebrations in honour of the Madonna della Stella take place on the first Sunday of July.
AA.VV.,(2000), Guida di Ostuni, Lecce, Lecce, Congedo Editore, 1. ed.
Tanzarella, A. (1989), Ostuni ieri, Fasano (Br), Schena Editore.
sito: www.brindisiweb.com (scheda a cura di Enza Aurisicchio).