The most pompous and amazing thing to see in Lecce, in my opinion, is the Basilica of Santa Croce. It was built over 150 years with the involvement of three architects, each wanting to outdo the other. It truly is a sight, with an overflowing number of patterns and figures making up the facade.
It became a Basilica only at the beginning of the twentieth century with Pope Pius X. It took three centuries from 1353 to 1695 to complete.
So much has been written about the facade. Leaves, flowers, cherubs, and allegorical figures are all carved in Lecce stone. A row of Caryatids supports the balustrade decorated with thirteen cherubs embracing and at the ends you can admire the statues of Faith and Charity. In case you don’t know (because I didn’t) caryatids are female figures that serve as the architectural support for a building.
Someone has already written in a tourist guide book that at sunset when the church is lit, it looks just like “a wedding cake that got out of the baker’s control”.
In the middle sits the large, circular rose window, framed by two Corinthian columns with the statues of San Benedetto and San Celestino on the sides. The rose window is characterized by three concentric rings with a vortex of winged cherubs, berries, grapes, and pomegranates. All around are decorative elements such as floral friezes, clusters of fruit, and cherubs. Finally, the main portal is characterized by a double pair of Corinthian columns and the coat of arms of Philip III of Spain.
The inside is far more elegant and calm.
The altar is enriched by 12 bas-reliefs by Francesco Antonio Zimbalo and is located under the beautiful dome full of decorations depicting flowers, leaves, and angels. The apse (front often domed or circular part of the cathedral) contains several scenes, including the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Annunciation of Mary, Mary, and Elizabeth, and an episode of the flight of the Jews from Egypt.
The Basilica has a Latin cross plan, with three naves, one central and two lateral. The central one has an imposing wooden ceiling rebuilt in the 19th century.
In the center of the ceiling, you can see the painting of the Holy Trinity by Giovanni Grassi, next to the coats of arms of the Celestines, the order the church belonged to.
Along the aisles, are seven deep chapels on each side with richly decorated altars. Some masterpieces of religious art are found amongst them.
The gate was built in 1548 in honour of Charles V, who had the fortifications built to defend the city. It stands on the site of the ancient Porta San Giusto and is called the Porta Napoli as it is at the gateway to the road to Naples.
We have seen some famous gates in our travels, the most memorable being the Porta Negra in Trier, Germany.
The amphitheater was discovered at the start of the twentieth century by some workers during the construction of the building of the Bank of Italy. It was completely buried under the city. It is the most important testimony of the Lupiae Roman period, the ancient Lecce. It is thought to date back to between the first and second century A.D, between the age of Augustus and the Trajan-Hadrian one. It could hold around 25000 spectators.
The main feature of this square is that it is a closed piazza. There is only one entrance, on one side, the other three sides are completely enclosed by buildings. The large square opens to the sky. You will find the Lecce Cathedral, the Bell tower, the Bishop’s Palace, and the Seminary in the square.
Lecce Cathedral is the cathedral of the city of Lecce in Apulia, Italy. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Lecce.
The Cathedral was consecrated in 1144 but was almost completely rebuilt in 1689, shortly after the addition of the bell tower.
The bell tower is 70m high and initially served as a watch tower over the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
Here are some other photos from around Lecce:
This reminds me of the ceiling of Monte Casino in Fourways.