The region's art heritage reflects the various historical phases Calabria went through.
The first artistic evidence in Calabria dates back to the Paleolithic era, about 19,000 years ago in numerous finds from the Neolithic age and later ages, among which are stone instruments.
During the 8th century B.C., Calabria withstood Greek colonization and lived through a period of great artistic splendor and extraordinary cultural activity.
Dating back to that period, besides the finds discovered in ancient archeological towns, are the legends and myths handed down from the Greek and Latin historians who have given a sacred aura to dawn of the greatest Mediterranean civilizations. Art produced by the civilization of Magna Graecia come from three main cultural areas: that of Sibari and Crotone, with a rich production of vases, Locri and its sub colonies with the earthenware pottery and the marble sculptures, and the area around Reggio Calabria, with its refined artistic handicrafts.
The end of the First Punic war marked the decline of Magna Graecia and the beginning of the Roman period: of particular importance are the remains of Roman cities and burial places, paintings dating back to the late period, such as the portrait of Agrippa in Vibo Valentia, and the precious mosaic floors in the villas of Casignana and Briatico Trainiti.
With the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Byzantines in the 6th century A.D., Calabria went through a second "Hellenistic" period. The most interesting find is the Codex Purpureus, made up of 188 parchment sheets with verses from the Gospel according to St. Mark and the entire Gospel according to St. Matthew painted in purple ink, along with 12 miniatures depicting the life of Jesus. Byzantine influence can also be noticed in religious architecture, such as the gorgeous building of the Cattolica di Stilo. The following Norman invasions built the great Benedictine abbeys, such as San Marco Argentano, Sant'Eufemia di Nicastro, Mileto, and the important Cathedral of Gerace.
The following domination by the Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese left evidence of great value. The most remarkable example of Gothic art is the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, at Altomonte and the Duomo of Tropea.
Among the castles, there are the Rocca Imperiale and Roseto Capo Spulico, both in province of Cosenza. Of the later period there is the famous Aragonese Castle of Pizzo, in Vibo Valentia's province, where Murat was shot.
In Cosenza there are many 15th century elegant buildings to visit, and again in Cosenza there are significant examples of 16th century art such as the Church of Santa Chiara, with its precious wooden ceiling, and the Church of the Virgins, with its tuff portal and precious decorations.
Since the 17th century, Calabrian art went through a major phases in painting, characterized by a typically mannerist style. A special mention must go to Mattia Preti, the most important Calabrian artist, whose main works can be admired in the churches of Taverna.
In this period the local engraving traditions were strengthened and the art of silk and textile weaving developed.