The church and the adjacent convent of the Celestine Convent represent, in their harmonious unity, the most complete example of the Leccese Baroque. Built to replace the ancient church within the castle, the Basilica was rebuilt several times between 1549 and the mid-17th century, the work of three generations of architects and master-craftsmen. The façade is composed of two orders surmounted by a large pediment, and clearly shows the two different styles in the long balcony supported by telamons (six human figures and seven animals) and the balustrade decorated by putti holding emblems
The Carmelites probably settled in Lecce in 1481 in a church outside the walls, near the Gate of San Biagio. After an earthquake that destroyed the convent in the 1540s, they abandoned the ‘old Carmine’ to settle within the walls close to the church dedicated to St Nicholas. Here the new church dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the convent, were built. In 1592, the master builders Paduano Baxi, Massenzio Trisolo and Pierangelo Cocciolo were commissioned to build the cloister of the convent. The first stone of the present church was laid on 15th of July 1711, on the eve of the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, in the presence of Prior Elia Giancola and the Leccese architect Giuseppe Cino. The church has an imposing façade, in which symmetry and proportion, created through the articulation of the surface with slightly protruding lesenes and string courses, are combined with an ornamental, three-dimensional effect lent by the sculptures and reliefs and diamantine surfaces. The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, within a flowered garland supported by angels at the centre of the portal’s curvilinear tympanum, and the coat of arms of the order above, the statues of Prophets Elijah and Elisha,the Sant’Angelo (Holy Angel) and Saint Albert on the lower part, and the statues of Saint Teresa of Avila and Santa Mary Magdalene of Pazzi on the upper part, celebrate the Carmelite Order and its Saints. The church has a complex layout, with an elliptical longitudinal main body, a non-protruding transept and a deep-set choir. A high cupola dominates the presbytery, creating a single central area. Giuseppe Cino follows the curvilinear shape of the walls, bending the pilasters at obtuse angles and harmoniously including richly decorated altars with Baroque motifs. On the death of Giuseppe Cino in 1722, work on the church, including the bell tower, is believed to have been completed under Mauro Manieri. There are statues and paintings in mixtilinear frames over some of the altars, taken from the previous church. Amongst the rich decorations dating from a period between the end of the 16th century and the 18th century are the painting of ‘Christ at the column’ by Vespasiano Genuino of Gallipoli, a canvas placed in the coffered ceiling, attributed to Paolo Finoglio, depicting the ‘Virgin with child and Carmelite Saints’ and the late 16th century paintings of the Prophets Elijah and Elisha, St John the Baptist and St Onuphrius. The altars most worthy of note include the principal altar and those dedicated to the prophet Elijah, to St Niccolò and Antonio Abate, to the Purification with a painting of ‘The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple’, and the altar dedicated to St Francis of Paola. The convent is built around a quadrangular cloister. The inner sides of the cloister show signs of work undertaken in the 19th century. Throughout the entire ground floor, soaring arches rest on smooth-shafted pillars, while on the first floor stands a loggia on the side adjoining the church. The portico is covered with cross vaults, whose keystones and corbels are often decorated, some of the lunettes being frescoed. On the ground floor there is an interesting room with a pavilion vault frescoed with grotesque motifs, scenes from the life of Prophet Elijah and portraits of the Carmelite Saints. The community was suppressed in 1807 and from 1813 onwards the convent was used as a barracks. In the second half of the century the convent was thoroughly renovated, altering its internal and external appearance.
After its demolition the Greek Orthodox church of St. Niccolò next to Arco di Prato was replaced in 1575 by the austere Jesus church. There, Modena-born father Bernardino Realino carried out his apostolate for more than 40 years. He had previously joined the order after a brilliant carreer in the public administration in the whole Peninsula.
At the bottom of the façade, among empty niches, the sumptuous portal displays the emblem of the Jesuits: two angels holding up a halo with the monogram of Christ. The infant Jesus is sculpted inside a sort of little temple above the central window of the second level. The Christological theme is also reproduced by the Passion symbols on the metopes of the entablature supporting the pediment and by the pelican at the very top, which tears apart its chest to feed its young.
The most significant among the precious altars of the church is that of our Lady of Good Counsel attributed to Zimbalo, with the martyrdom of St. Irene by Antonio Verrio. The paintings included in the coffered ceiling depict the life of St. Ignatius and the history of the Society of Jesus
The Church of Santa Maria of the providence, originally adjacent to the Alcanterine monastery(see below), was built at the beginning of the 18th century by Giuseppe Cino.It was wanted by cleric Francesco Antonio Riccio, who financed the project. In 1724, according to the Giuseppe Angrisani wills, (Baron of Torchiarolo)building activities were charged to the architect Mauro Manieri. After the suppression of religious orders in 1809, the church was given to to the Confraternity of Maria SS of the Providence, and the monastery was demolished in 1835. The façade of the church is featured by by a sense of upward motionand it is divided into three orders. The lowest order is marked by alternating double pilasters, both fluted and smooth, and there are also niches with stone statues of St Francis and the Archangel St Michael on the left, and St Raphael and St Anthony of Padua on the right. The central portal is nestled in a sober cornice, with a mixtilinear tympanum, with volutes and pendent racemes. The middle order above the trabeation has two volutes, stone pine cones in the corners, a central window with columns on the sides, and two niches with sculptures of St Peter of Alcantara on the left, and St Pasquale Baylan on the right. The curvilinear tympanum, in line with the window, is framed by a fastigium with two pine cones at the corners, slender volutes and a classical pediment. The side is decorated with flat pilasters in the lower order and robust buttresses in the upper. The church is a single rectangular chamber, with three small chapels leading off to each side and a flat-ended presbytery. Above the three rounded arches, alternating with columns there are are the choirs enclosed by painted wooden screens level with the windows. Foliate decorative motifs and chains of stucco volutes link the arches of the choir-screens to the columns with an understated yet ornamental complexity, echoed by similar decorations around the windows. There are several papier-mâché sculptures including the Madonna delle Grazie or of the Providence (also known as the Madonna of Cherries) and, by Antonio Maccagnani, Sant’Antonio Abate, whose cult was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century when the confraternity and the statue were moved to the Church of Santa Maria della Provvidenza. On the first altar on the right hangs a painting of the Madonna and Child and Saints (18th century), while on the first altar on the left there is the Crucifixion and Saints; in the presbytery you can see the Adoration of the Sheperds by Diego Bianchi, and the Annunciation, attributed to Oronzo Tiso, on the counter-façade.
The St. Giovanni Battista Basilica (also knowns as Rosario church) was finished in 1691 over a previous one that dated back 1388. The church was built to celebrate the coming in town of the Dominican confraternity, and was commissioned to Giuseppe Zimbalo, who also personally contributed to complete the building of the site. However the church was finished by Zimbalo’s pupils only in 1728, while Zimbalo died in 1710.
The façade is divided in two levels, on the lower one there is the St. Domenico of Guzman statue set between two decorated columns topped by capitals containing winged horses symbol of the Dominicans. The second order is enriched with colonnaded balustrade and a Virgin Mary statue.
Its interior consists of al Greek cross plan whose four arms rise in two orders.. The first is decorated with reliefs and pilasters supporting the second order with large windows bordered by lessens. The octagonal perimeter is lined with pilasters bearing statues in Leccese stone of (from the right) the saints Thomas Aquinas, Augustin, Paul, Peter, Gregory the Great, Ambrose and Jerome. The pulpit is noteworthy as it is the only example in Lecce built in local leccese stone. Leaving the main altar out, there are twelve others, all richly decorated with baroque reliefs, statues and fine paintings. A wooden truss-beam ceiling was built instead of a cupola, perhaps due to the premature death of Zimbalo and because of the ceiling’s size. The coat of arms of the families who contributed to the building of the church are sculpted on the pillars. In 1821, the building was given to the local confraternity of the Rosario, following the suppression of the Dominican Order. In 1948, the church was named a minor basilica by order of Pope Pius XII. Adjacent to the church there is the Dominican Convent. The design was originally ogive and was completed in 1408. It was rebuilt in the 18th century, probably by Emanuele Manieri. The façade is divided by six long pilasters into five sections, with two large portals with balconies at the two ends. Inside there is a large cloister. Today the convent houses an Arts high school.
The St. Joseph church, was built by G. Giacomo dell’Acaya in 1584 and given to the Observant Fathers.During the 18th century the Fathers decided to enlarge the original chapel and for this reason the main façade became the one on Ludovico Maremonti street, close to the main square.The recent restoration activities have uncovered the original entrance portal on Dell’Acaya street. Today the Entrance portal is probably the most important work made by Gabriele Riccardi. It is framed within a couple of ribbed coloumns put on a diamond shape ashlar and supported by capitals with leave and angel motifs. Originally there should be a rose window that can be spotted passing along the dell’Acaya street
The Church of Santa Maria della Porta is adjacent to Napoli Gate. Originally, it was a small chapel outside the walls and contained an image of the Virgin Mary which was considered miraculous. When the city walls were built in 1567 the church was outside them. However when a miracle was ascribed to the Virgin Mary painting contained in the church(a woman Laura Macchia started to walk after 15 years of paralisys) the same religious place was enlarged and enclosed inside the city walls. From 1606 onwards a parish church was established. The engraving made by Pompeo Renzo in 1634 for the “Lecce Sacra dissertation”, by Giulio Cesare Infantino, shows the main façade of the sixteenth-century church with a gabled profile and a large rose window in the central part, and a series of architraved doors, some with decorated lunettes, leading to the different parts of the church.
The church was built in 1543 as symbol of the Venetian presence in town and was therefore dedicated to the Venice Patron Saint Mark. Up until the second part of the XIX th century the church was in the middle of the so called “Merchants of Venice” then St. Oronzo Sq.
Venetians wanted the building of the church also because the Bishop of Lecce gave them the less important church dedicated to St. George. So Venetian doges collected money and commissioned Gabriele Riccardi the building of the St. Mark church. Its façade is in baroque style whose richness is in the rose window above the entrance portal that remind that of the Holi Cross Basilica. Between the portal and the rose window there is the famous winged lion symbol of Venice in all its heraldry elegance.
Its interior develops on a one nave church, on the left there is a portal embellished with flower and garland motifs. Annexed to the church there is the Seat built in 1592 and wanted by the former Mayor Pier Mocenigo( of Venetian origins). The building is a mix of Gothic and renaissance styles, composed by four angular columns which are part of the same loggia. The angular column motif is similar to the one experimented by the same architect in The Holy Cross Church. Originally there was a watch supported by two statues. The seat was the Municipality town hall until 1852 while today is one of the Thee Tourist offices of the City.
A contrast of lines between the two levels of the front, which is convex at the entrance and concave in the upper part, characterises this site. We may define it an unusual church if compared to the others that are defined baroque for their external decoration. In this case, on the contrary, the architect Larducci was probably influenced by the renowed Borromini style displayed in the famous church”San Carlo alle quattro fontane” in Rome.
The adopted materials are obviously different and the decorative elaborationsare made easier by the soft local stone; the diamond points take a round shape to become scales ; columns change into parastades and, on the upper part,a window that echoes the “serliana” with on its sides flowered vases. Its interior faithful to the exterior is elliptic containing 12 very rich altars where the staues of the apostoles are displayed(Placido Buffelli 1692); noteworthy the wooden ceiling and the organ coming from the original Holy Cross church.
This religious place was dedicated to St. Sebastiano the patron Saint of the infecteds. It was erected over a previous cave church dedicated to the SS. Leonardo, Sebastiano and Rocco when people had thought to find the remains of the SS. Oronzo, Giusto and Fortunato. The church was deconsacreted in 1967 and it has a single nave.The lateral sides are enriched with arches, while the main altar there was the painting of the Immaculation between two St. Sebastian and St. Rocco stone statues. You can still spot some frescoes on the walls belonging to the original church, outstanding “the Imago Pietatis” on the right.
Beautiful its façade enriched with Lombard bands and below them awonderful entrance portal enriched with flower and symbolic elements.
It has a small and at the same time a cuspidal façade. St. Anne became the minor she patron Saint of the town since 1869.Built by Zimbalo in 1680, an element that needs to be pointed out is the position of the niches of the statues of the SS. Peter and Paul, St. Anne and St. John the Evangelist.
Adjacent there is the Conservatorio of St. Anne which was once a school for the ladies of the patrician families of the town; it was built by Manieri.
The St. Irene church also known as the Teatini one, was built in honour of St. Irene from Thessalonica. Originally she was the she Patron Saint of the town( she was replaced by St. Oronzo in 1658).It was built by some of the greatest local baroque style architects including Manieri who finished it in 1717 over an original design made by the teatini Father Grimaldi
The Church of Santa Chiara was founded in 1687, on the site of a previous religious building dating back to the 15th century. Some scholars have attributed the Church to the Leccese architect Giuseppe Cino, but there is some disagreement about this attribution. The convex façade, without an upper pediment, is divided into two orders, separated by a moulded string course with an indented motif. The lower part hosts an elegant portal whose jambs are decorated with plant motifs, and a mixtilinear split gable with garlands at the centre, supported by two angels, and in the upper part the coat of arms of the Order. The façade alternates columns and double-fluted pilasters on a high plinth, regularly interspersed with niches with cartouches and decorated medallions. The upper order accentuates the vertical effect with volutes and curvilinear motifs connecting it to the lower order. The upper part has niches with double-fluted pilasters, flanking a large central window with a split gable ending in two volutes. The building’s layout is octagonal, extended by a large presbytery with a star-vaulted ceiling. The interior is also divided into two orders by a moulded cornice decorated with an elegant indented festooned motif. The octagonal walls are interspersed with fluted pilasters with slightly protruding Corinthian capitals. There are three shallow chapels on either side, with intricate, partially-gilded altars, richly decorated with twisted columns, entwined racemes, birds, angels, volutes, cartouches, garlands and sculptures. Wooden Neapolitan-style statues (late 17th century) stand in the altar niches depicting, on the right, St Francis Xavier, St Francis of Assisi and St Peter of Alcantara, and on the left, St Gaetano of Thiene, St Anthony of Padua and the Immaculate Conception. In the spaces between the chapels there are paintings of evangelical and pious scenes and of the lives of the saints, separated by pairs of pilasters. In the upper order, in line with the chapels, seven large windows alternate with niches containing sculptures of the Blessed Beatrice, Agnes, Amata and Ortolana. Choirs with gratings line the walls where the Poor Clares took part in the religious services. The monumental main altar is flanked by high twisted columns with entwined racemes and is entirely decorated with Baroque stuccoes and a statue of St Clare in a niche in the centre. As in many Baroque churches in Lecce, in the Church of St Clare, the chapels, together with the decorative surrounds, sculptures and paintings, blend in with the ornate background décor.
The church, was originally dedicated to Sant’Andrea and is also known as ‘Chiesa Nova’ (New Church) or as ‘Santa Elisabetta’. The church first belonged to the Lateran Canons, then passed to the Mattei family, founders of the towns of Novoli and Palmariggi, subsequently to the Pedio family and later to Francesco Micheli, President of the Law Courts in Lecce, whose wife Matilde Scarciglia donated it to the Archdiocese of Lecce. In 1586, the Theatine Fathers were put in charge of the church; two centuries ago the Confraternity of ‘la Visitazione della Vergine di Santa Elisabetta’ officiated. The building was begun in 1519 and has a Renaissance portal with a rosette in Leccese stone, restructured in the 19th century. The chapel is modest in size, with a single chamber and vaulted ceiling. The apse has a hemispherical dome. Light enters through six windows, three of which have cornices that enhance the three-dimensional structure of the chapel. On the sides, there are four 18th century altars and paintings of the Pietà of Sant’Antonio and San Gerardo Maiella. The fine 17th century statue in papier-mâché of St Elizabeth of Hungary stands in a niche. Lining the walls are the fourteen stations of the Via Crucis in papier-mâché and alto-rilievo (18th century). Originally there was an organ, a statue of San Gerardo Maiella and a wooden choir sculpted with effigies of Christ and the twelve Apostles. On the main altar there is a statue of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in papier-mâché, which is probably late 17th century. The sacristy and other rooms, adjacent to the church, are to the right at the rear. Originally, they were probably destined for the Abbot and other chaplains. The chapel was dedicated to Sant’Andrea, as was the neighbourhood. Ancient connections can be traced between the church and that of San Sebastiano of the ‘Pentite’ (Repentant Women), these two being the oldest churches in Lecce’s old town. There is a pervading sense of mysticism as one enters the chapel, a sensation accentuated, in past times, by the sound of church bells, the oldest in Lecce.
The Order of Minims founded by St Francis of Paola came to Lecce in 1524 and settled in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The church, together with the adjacent convent, was founded by the aristocrat Giovannella Maremonte, in accordance with the testament of her late husband, the Florentine Bernardo Peruzzi. In 1527, in her own will, the noblewoman stipulated the donation to the Order of an olive grove, and the sum of three hundred florins for the completion of the church and the convent. The buildings were erected outside the medieval walls in the mid-16th century. The church and convent were enclosed just within the new walls commissioned by Charles V, which involved partial reconstruction of the buildings.
The building, built on a site of an existing church was built by architect Mauro Manieri . The prospectus , very sober , is characterized by the movement of the wall surface generated with the retreat of two side and dall’articolazione in two overlapping orders , divided by a strong cornice and concluded by a termination mixtilinear arched inflected .
The church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli was rebuilt in 1663 on the site of another medieval structure. Tradition has it that the convent of the Augustinians, originally dedicated to St Mary, dates back to 1061 and that in 1300 it was dedicated to the Archangel St Michael. It was rebuilt to Giuseppe Zimbalo’s design, but the relationship between the architect and the Augustinian Fathers was less than tranquil, because the building soon showed signs of damage. The façade, incomplete at the top, has in its lower part a rhythmic succession of double-fluted pilasters, interspersed with friezes and putti, alternating with niches ornamented with elegant cornices. At the centre, the portal is framed by slender columns with tight fluting on the lower part and wider fluting above the festoon where it meets the shaft. The portal’s jambs have phytomorphic motifs and volutes, whilst the architrave is decorated with a continuous frieze. A festoon with vivacious putti is part of a curvilinear tympanum and, above it, two angels flank a statue of the Madonna with Child. The door, coated in bronze and designed by Emanuele Manieri, bears the date MDCCL and, in relief, the double-headed eagle of the Order of the Augustinians. The sculpted metopes, between the capitals, emblematically commemorate the religious Order and the church, while the continuous frieze, which divides the façade horizontally, bears the inscription ‘Deiparae Costantinopolitanae ab initio dicatum et reaedificatum 1663’ with letters held up by putti, eagles and lions. The upper part, connected by lateral volutes, imitates the rhythm of the lower part with very similar decoration. The church is in the shape of a Latin cross with a non-protruding transept and a flat-ended choir. Along the nave there are four arches on each side, alternating with fluted pilasters with figured capitals, on which stand a string course cornice with an indented decorative motif that separates the upper part with rectangular windows alternated with lesenes. The chapels contain Baroque altars richly decorated with twisted columns, friezes, festoons, statues, volutes and pinnacles. At either end of the transept there are two monumental altars: on the right, an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows with a papier-mâché statue (19th century) by Antonio Maccagnani at its centre and, to the left, the other altar, dedicated to St Anthony the Abbot, with a painting by Alessandro Calabrese. There are also 17th-century paintings portraying the Virgin with Child between the Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Gertrude, Augustine and Nicholas of Bari. In the presbytery, there is a painting of St Anthony of Padua on the second altar on the right. In the chapels on the left, the stone statues of St Thomas of Villanova, the Archangel St Michael and St Nicholas of Tolentino are to be found over the altars dedicated to these saints.
The Church of St. Teresa and the adjoining monastery were founded in 1620, when Canon Annibale Mercurio donated the property to the Barefoot Carmelite fathers, who also received a legacy of 2000 ducats from Giuseppe Paladini. The building was sanctified in 1622 and completed in 1630. It is dedicated to St Teresa of Avila who reformed the Order of Barefoot Carmelites. Cesare Penna oversaw the initial building of the church, but it was completed by Giuseppe Zimbalo. The church’s simple and compact design was never to be completed. The main entrance is on via Libertini and is set back slightly from the street, while the side entrance leads onto via Santa Venera. The façade, which remains incomplete, was built in two orders, its visual impact accentuated by the decorated columns with floral motifs. The first order features sculpted Corinthian columns and two niches with statues of St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist. A large portal, in the centre, bears the insignia of the Confraternity of the Crucifix. The second order, which is incomplete, has a window in the centre, in line with the doorway. The lower section of the façade is reminiscent of the style of Coluzio and Grimaldi, whereas the upper part is more similar to the work of Rosario. The Latin cross interior has a single nave, a short transept and three chapels with altars on either side. The inside of the building, bordered by thick walls, appears static and uniform and is well lit by windows encased by carinated structures built into the surrounding walls. The higher altar, built in the 18th century to replace the 17th century altar, is adorned with marble inlay and filigree. The altar was re-erected in the Cathedral in the 19th century in the Chapel of St Anne and St Filippo Neri. Fine paintings of St Anne, the Adoration of the Magi, St John the Baptist and St Anthony of Padua hang in the arm to the left of the transept, while in the section to the right we find the Adoration of the Shepherds, Judith with the head of Holofernes and Salomé with the head of St John the Baptist. At the inner door stands a papier-mâché statue of St Oronzo by the master craftsman Achille de Lucrezi of Lecce. The church was ceded to the Confraternity of the Crucifix and Gonfalone by Royal Decree, this merger of the two having been declared by Bishop Nicola Caputo in the bill of 17th May 1831. Next to the church stands the monastery of the Barefoot Carmelites. When religious orders were suppressed in 1831, the convent was first converted into barracks and then later became a school.
The origins of this ancient and imposing convent, built behind the city walls to the east of Porta San Giusto (Porta Napoli), are closely tied to the religious policies of the Norman dynasty. A document dated 1133 shows that the monastery was founded by the Norman Count Accardo and housed a community of Benedictine nuns. The first abbess was Agnes, sister of the founder. Subsequent papal bulls confirmed the convent’s privileges, placing it directly under papal authority. Nowadays there is no trace of the original medieval building. The church and convent were restructured and repaired over the centuries due to the age of the buildings and to practical living requirements. The monastery, built on two floors, was enlarged and radically renovated
In 1765, the church was rebuilt in late-Baroque style to the design of Francesco Palma, Lazzaro Marsione, Lazzaro Lombardo and Vincenzo Carrozzo.The area was given to the Jesuits, the chapel was destroyed and the Greek colony was forced to join other Greek churches until they settled in the church of San Giovanni del Malato that was re-consacrated to San Niccolò dei Greci. The church of San Niccolò dei Greci, which was the parish church of the Albanian and Greek residents in the city, bears witness to the numerous communities of followers of the Byzantine rite in the Terra d’Otranto. Until 1575, the parish church was a chapel where the ‘Chiesa del Gesù’ lies today. The simple façade is tripartite with a double line of pilasters marked horizontally by a trabeation. The single portal has a lunette with a Baroque cartouche and is aligned with a mixtilinear window above. The upper order is encased at the sides by pinnacles, and enlivened by lateral interlinked volutes and a moulded crowning cornice with stone spiral decorations. The interior is made up of a single chamber with an apse with three vaulted spans. During restoration works, experts discovered some traces of foundations of the old medieval church: a nave and side-aisles closed by apses, with some frescoes still visible. The design of the internal space reflects the functional requirements of the Byzantine liturgy. The congregation is separated from the altar by an iconostasis in Leccese stone with three entrances and contains several paintings.
The church and monastery were founded in 1180 by Tancredi, Count of Lecce, who is commemorated in the inscriptions above the architraves of the main and lateral portals on the right-hand side of the church where the cloister is situated. Tancredi gave the monastery to the Benedectine monks who were succeeded, in 1494, according to the wishes of Alfonso II, King of the Two Sicilies, by the Olivetan order who remained there until 1807.They substantially renovated the monastery. The church is one of the most interesting examples of monumental medieval architecture
The convent was founded in the second half of the 14th century by Giovanni d’Aymo. According to legend, d’Aymo, learning from a Flemish pilgrim about an immense hidden treasure inside a little chapel outside Lecce, took possession of it by killing the pilgrim. To expiate this brutal murder, with the consent of the Bishop, he built this convent (1389), together with the adjacent church (1388) and the former Spirito Santo hospital opposite, entrusting it to the Dominican Fathers. They were noted, apart from their talent in preaching, for philosophical and theological studies. Consequently, in 1652, the convent became the seat of the ‘Studium Generale’, to which the theologian Dionisio Leone, author of many volumes on logic and physics, lent great prestige. The fourteenth-century building underwent numerous changes: a programme of total reconstruction, by Giuseppe Zimbalo, was undertaken in the late 17th century, but remained unfinished due to the death of the architect. The completion of the construction, to Emanuele Manieri’s project, dates back to the mid-18th century. It is to him that we owe the achievement of the upper rooms of the cloister, resting on pillars with a series of elegant windows with a mirror effect in the interspace.
Lecce Cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. Built in Norman times (1114), commissioned by Bishop Formoso, it was renovated during the time of the Swabians (1230) by Bishop Volturio and then by order of Bishop Luigi Pappacoda in the Baroque era, from 1659 to 1670, in a project by Giuseppe Zimbalo. Today’s building retains most of the ancient ground-plan, rises through two orders and has two different facades, the main one facing north-west and the other facing east. The latter was executed in honour of St. Oronzo, protector of the town, and to enrich the stage-like setting of the square with a sculpted wing that offers an extraordinary display of the carving skills of sculptors from Lecce. Saints sculpted in the two facades are as follows:the Apostoles Peter and Paul, Gennaro and Ludwig of Toulouse with the Virgin of the Assumption and Christ, all in line with the entrance in the main facade; Oronzo, Giusto, Fortunato and two Virtues in the second facade. The coat-of-arms of bishop Pappacoda dominates the lintel of the side doorway as if to seal the authority of the patron’s sponsorship. The Cathedral interior is in Latin cross form with a wide transept, extending like a three-naved basilica; the central nave and transept are enriched with elegant wooden coffering work, further enhanced by paintings showing the Preaching, Martyrdom and Patronage of Saint Oronzo, a Last Supper and an Assumption of the Virgin, by Giuseppe da Brindisi and Carlo Rosa. Starting with the left nave, altars are respectively dedicated to St. John the Baptist (1670), the Nativity (by Gabriele Riccardi, 1545), St. Fortunato (1674), St. Anthony (1674 by G. Zimbalo), the immaculate Conception (with a statue by N. Fumo of 1689), St. Philip Neri after which comes the Main Altar; the right nave contains altars dedicated to the Lamentation, to St. Justin (1656 by Coppola), to St. Charles (1692 by Antonio Della Fiore), to St. Andrew the Apostle, to St. Oronzo (by G.A. Larducci) and to the Crucifixion. The Cathedral’s interior space is divided up by pillars and half-columns. The side-aisle ceilings feature Leccese-style corner vaults with stucco decorations; the central nave and the transept have wooden trussed ceilings. Beneath the cross area is the crypt, accessible from just beside the pulpit, which dates back to the Cathedral’s early medieval period. The chamber has 92 supporting columns with elegant capitals and was entirely renovated during the 16th century.
The original building of the Bishop’s Palace dates back to the 15th century, the time of Bishop Guidano. It was later rebuilt from 1591 to 1639, commissioned by Bishop Scipione Spina, to an L-shaped groundplan, set at an angle to the main facade of the Cathedral. According to reports by Giulio Cesare Infantino, the palace featured a double set of converging staircases, which gave the entire complex a monumental character.In 1758, the façade was rebuilt and embellished, and rooms were enlarged, by Emanuele Manieri, who also set a small contrasting loggia into the central body of the portico, comprising three niches, statues and a clock made by master craftsman Domenico Panico. The building extends over a right-angled plan running between the Seminary and the Cathedral and features a very fine façade with an arched portico that rises above an ashlar-work base.In place of the previous external flight of stairs, the architect Manieri built another within the building, opening out into a diverging double stairway leading to the central section. This stairway is completely enclosed between the ashlar-work basement and the arches of the loggia which enhance the form of the building. The piano nobile is enlivened by elegant windows with pediments. The top floor sits slightly further back and its window cornices complete this harmonious facade in a rhythmical counterpoint reminiscent of musical compositions of the time. Inside the palace, where the Royal Family of Naples stayed in 1797, are the state apartments, with a vast gallery, the bishop’s residential quarters, and the offices of the Curia. Artworks kept here include a polychrome statue of the Assumption by Nicola Fumo and paintings including a Virgin with Child, attributed to Catalano, a Crucifixion of St. Peter by Luca Giordano, a Venetian panel showing a Virgin with Child and a Holy Family from the Church of the Carmine. The L-shaped construction of the Bishop’s Palace forms a connecting unit that links the Cathedral with the Seminary, creating a fine theatrical backdrop for the whole of the square.
The former Conservatory of St Anne is one of the admirable examples of privately-funded buildings that are a feature of Lecce. From its foundation, the Conservatory institute was established within the old residence of the Verardi family, as Bernardino Verardi had stipulated in his will, dated 1679. The main purpose of the Conservatory was to take in noblewomen of Lecce (‘virgins, widows and unhappily-married women’) who wished to retire to private life, to perform religious practices and adopt other kinds of contemplative or active lifestyles, while preserving their lay state and condition. The old Palazzo Verardi, known as ‘all’Incrociata’, stands on a very ancient site, below which there are believed to be underground cisterns and old grain storerooms. The building overlooked a small square, a little set back from the main road; it had two floors with direct access from the ground floor.. After 1681, the year when construction of the adjacent church began, the building was relegated to a role of secondary importance in the urban landscape, becoming partly forgotten. In 1764, thanks to the patronage of Bishop Alfonso Sozy-Carafa, the Conservatory was extended by the architect Emanuele Manieri and thus regained its leading role in the life of the town. This work mainly involved incorporating new rooms acquired from nearby buildings into the main body of the structure. Without doubt, the most important undertaking of this venture was the new façade of the Conservatory which lent uniformity to the front of the building overlooking the square, allowing it to blend in with the church’s façade and imbuing it with a new dignity. The architect designed a succession of ever-increasing spaces by building a stairway of striking visual impact, starting from the square, leading up to the first floor of the façade and to a charming entrance. With its stylish pattern of moulding, this new entrance became an emblem of the renovation project, adorned as it is with symbolic references evoking the history of the site: crests of the founding families (Verardi and Paladini) on the portal’s half columns, little angels’ heads symbolizing the religious nature of the building, a commemorative epigraph in praise of the Bishop’s patronage, even up the to the signature of the architect, with the customary upturned bellflowers with which Manieri usually signed his works. Finally, the layout of the buildings in the square is completed by an elegant balcony on the right. Beyond the entrance, another flight of steps leads to the building’s new main entrance on the first floor.
The college of Jesuits was strategically positioned in the city of Lecce at the end of the 16th century. It remained a driving force for catechetic and missionary works until 1767, in line with the Order’s programme and in keeping with the ideals of the post-Tridentine Church. Construction of the convent was started in 1579, despite the fact that the fathers of the Company of Jesus had reached the city in 1574 under the guidance of the charismatic Bernardino Realino from Carpi. That same year, the university set aside 3000 ducats for a building, next to the church, to house the fathers. On the completion of this building, the Palazzo was then built, thanks to the donation of 12000 ducats by the aristocrat Raffaele Staibano. The Jesuit architect Giovanni de Rosis, who had also designed the church, was responsible for the original design. Towards the end of the project another architect, Giuseppe Valeriano, took over and designed the façade. The main body of the building was completed towards the end of the 16th century. In 1693 new corridors and halls were added to the west wing of the building. In accordance with the original plans, it was built on two floors around a central square cloister with round arches on quadrangular columns. The classrooms and conference chambers were on the ground floor, while the living quarters, the library, the refectory, other facilities and religious chambers were on the first floor. The severe aspect of the façade was due to two orders of fourteen pilasters, with a string-course trabeation. Within the interspace there were pairs of windows with circular tympana on the ground floor and triangular tympana on the first floor. A series of square openings completed the top of the façade with a moulded projecting cornice. After the suppression of the Order in 1767, the building was used for various purposes. For ten years it became a royal college, then was taken over by the Benedictine monks of Montescaglioso, who occupied the first floor, leaving the ground floor to the college, which became in the 18th century the seat of the University departments of medicine and law. The Benedictine Order was suppressed, the college transferred, and in 1807 Joseph Bonaparte established the law courts in the building.
The Padri Teatini (Theatine fathers) settled in Lecce in 1586, with the consent of Bishop Annibale Saraceno and the economic support of the town, that provided comfortable accommodation at the house of noblewoman Elena Staiano. They were offered, for religious services, first the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, and then the small church dedicated to Saint Irene. With the political support of the University and the economic help of many citizens, they acquired different properties in order to secure a more extensive site on which to build the new church and convent. The building dedicated to the former she patron saint- of Lecce, and the convent.Both were built in the area known as ‘la frasca’ between the last decade of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th. The chosen location is indicative of the desire to settle in the heart of the city, in a prominent site, on one of the most important thoroughfares, the better to devote themselves to preaching and caring for the dying. The Teatini, together with the Jesuits, were the most rigorous exponents of the Counter-Reformation and in Lecce as elsewhere they worked for the renewal of the liturgy, of preaching and of the officiation of sacraments. The convent complex could accommodate forty fathers who, in the first three decades of the 17th century, are known to have lived in the structure, while in 1762 a boarding school was established for young people who wanted to join the Order. With the suppression of religious orders, the church and the convent were given to the Municipality of Lecce, that took care to keep it open for religious purposes, entrusting the church to two of Lecce Padri Teatini. The various re-organizations and conversions for use as barracks, school and offices have changed the original conformation of the convent complex. Adjacent to the church, there is a building built on three levels: a ground floor, a mezzanine and a first floor. The rooms, within four distinct buildings, are arranged around a quadrangular cloister and are connected by a cross-vaulted portico on the lower floor and a corridor on the upper floor. The cloister is enlivened on the ground floor by a rhythmic succession of rounded arches resting on large pillars, and on the first floor by a series of geometrically arranged architraved windows with triangular tympanum; the final cornice, with indented motifs, completes the surface harmoniously. The rooms are covered with cross vaults and star vaults, made of Leccese limestone and carparo stone.
The seminary of Piazza Duomo, commissioned by Bishop Michele Pignatelli, begun in 1694 and completed in 1729 (by architect Giuseppe Cino), represents one of the most outstanding examples of Baroque architecture in Lecce. Together with the Bell Tower, the Cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace and the colonnades, it creates one of the city’s most evocative and dramatic piazzas. The building, adjacent to the Bishop’s Palace, is situated on the North-West side of the square. Giuseppe Cino designed a single building of monumental proportions, similar to the design of the Celestine monastery, with a highly decorative lower section. The upper section, more linear, with corbels, was designed by the architect Manieri. The façade has ashlar-work pilasters with striking capitals, defining eight bays symmetrically distributed to the left and right of the entrance, each with two orders of finely-sculpted windows enriched by finely-balanced decorative elements. A long balustrade runs along the top, with alternating columns and pilasters completing Cino’s façade. The decorations adorning the entrance, flanked by half-columns (two sculptures were removed during restoration), are of great artistic value, and the Bishop’s crest graces the arched vault, close to ledges supporting a balcony. To the rear, there are three round bay openings resting on finely-crafted columns with capitals. The façade to the right of the Seminary is simple in design: windows and doors topped by smooth cornices. A rib-vaulted hall with lunettes is entered through a richly decorated doorway. The architectural style is austere. There are eight busts of Saints: to the right St Athanasius, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Jerome and St. Ambrose ; to the left St. John Chrysostom, St. Bonaventura, St. Augustine and St. Gregory. In the middle of the courtyard sits a magnificent well, created by Cino, adorned with cherubs and garlands. There are many antique paintings of renown in the charming chapel (1696), in particular one of St. Gregory, worker of miracles, signed by Paolo de Matteis, dated 1696 and placed above the main altar, designed by Cino. Other paintings include San Vincenzo Diacono and St. Dominica , the latter placed above the altar built in 1704 by the Vicar of the Diocese, Scipione Martirano. A wide staircase leads up to the first floor, once reserved for seminarists, now the diocesan museum. The Innocenziana library, bearing the Papal name taken by Antonio Pignatelli of Spinazzola, Bishop of Lecce, occupies rooms on the ground floor and contains over ten thousand books: incunabula and many sixteenth-century volumes of Italian and foreign origin.
According to tradition, the Monastery of Santa Chiara was founded around 1410 by the monk Thomas Admired, a religious of the Order of the Conventual Friars of St. Francis, Bishop of the City of Lecce from 1429 to 1438, but according to another hypothesis, the foundation is due to the wealthy Antonio Giovanni de Ferraris, who assigned it to the monastery of the Poor Clares some real estate and all its property.The link between the monastery and the family of Florentine origin of Admired was recorded in the sixteenth century by bequests and the presence of nuns belonging to the same family. Around the middle of the seventeenth century documented the precarious state in which it was the Monastery and provisions totaled bishop because he provvedesse the restoration and refurbishment of buildings. Together with the work of the church were made even those of the convent and in 1691 we confirm that the Poor Clares again took possession of the premises. From a pastoral visit in 1747 showed that the cells of the nuns were twenty and that there were three dormitories, a dining hall and a pantry. Around the 30s of the XIX century. the building, in poor condition, in need of massive renovation and during the work the nuns were transferred in a few rooms adjacent to the monastery. In 1837 the old building was demolished and the work continued until 1841. With the decree of suppression of religious orders, of February 17, 1861, the monastery was private property, whose administration passed in part to the State and partly to private citizens. The latest Clare remained in the monastery until 1866, when the community was finally suppressed and were welcomed at the Benedictine Monastery of St. John the Evangelist. The environments of the complex were later used as offices of the Internal Finance. The former monastery is presented, after numerous renovations were designed by architect Jesuit Giambattista Jazzeolla and after the changes which occurred after the suppression, much compromise in its most ancient. The few surviving elements are reduced to a few arch surmounted by arches on the ground floor of a lodge, also obliterated. The interiors of the monastery, on two floors, are distributed around a quadrangle crossed by a gallery. Solution adopted also in the area which lays the foundations of the Roman Theatre. The prospectus via Art of Papier Mache is the one that presents the most complex layers and retains traces of the outside wall hangings oldest and drains now walled up. The prospectus of the nineteenth century because of Ammirati is divided horizontally by a string course just projecting that separates the two floors.
A ground floor opens a portal archivoltato with alternate bosses, game repurposed to scan vertically some buildings. On either side of the portal open simple rectangular windows with a simple geometric frame, while the upper floor windows with architraves have a curved profile inside.
Piazza Duomo was defined by Cesare Brandi as a vast courtyard which is entered through a large front gate and open to the skies like a terrace. In the square we witness the triumph of the Leccese Baroque style. The mysterious and precise relationship between the height of the Bell Tower and the width of the churchyard, the spyglass window at the entrance, the small loggia in the distance, all form a succession of intricate and interwoven spaces that do not quite convey the incredible rationality of proportions of the Piazza. The Bishop’s Courtyard was, and remains today, the centre of ecclesiastical life in Lecce (though it has also been used as a marketplace) in contrast with the focal point of secular life, Piazza Sant’Oronzo. The courtyard dates back to the time of Bishop Gerolamo Guidano (1420-25) and has been modified several times. The current entrance is framed by a colonnade, built by Emanuele Manieri when the original entrance was demolished. The columns are surmounted by statues and balusters in funnel formation, and link Via G. Libertini, Via Palmieri and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, leading to Piazza Sant’Oronzo. (Originally, Via Palmieri led to Porta San Giusto di Napoli, and was the main artery of traffic into the city.) A 1634 etching by Pompeo Renzo, a Lecce priest, depicts a traditional fair of toys and autumn fruit in Piazza Duomo called ‘Panieri’ or ‘Spasa del Monsignore’. In 1957, a fountain, with a pair of winged horses, sculpted by Antonio Bortone, was placed at the centre of the square.
This building once housed one of Lecce’s earliest charitable institutions; built and founded by Giovanni D’Aymo in 1392 near the Incrociata (an important crossroads in the old town), it was assigned to the Dominican Friars to be managed as a hospital for pilgrims to cure their diseases. When collapsed was rebuilt in 1548 by an eminent architect of military buildings, Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya, who had already designed the Castle of Charles V, the town walls and the stronghold town of Acaya, as well as important military buildings throughout the Kingdom of Naples. The building exemplifies this military architect’s exceptional skills: an austere, solid structure sits above a protruding ashlar-work base, marked by a lively succession of binary half-columns of Albertian influence, moulded and grooved to enhance their elegant, soaring impact. The ashlar-work pattern is also a feature of the windows placed at regular intervals on the first level, as far as the first doorway; beyond this point the different position of the windows marks the presence of the adjoining Chapel of the Holy Spirit, which has no façade on the main road, but is equally recognizable by its windows on Via Galateo. Inside, the hospital there are two large halls with barrel-vaulted ceilings interspersed with lunettes: these constituted the two main wards and correspond to the three external segments of the building. The wards are aligned with the small chapel, so that patients also could attend Mass from their beds by watching through a door that led into the chapel. Around the courtyard stood workshops and pharmacies catering for the needs of the sick people. One wing of the building now houses a cinema that fills the area once occupied by the two wards; the other wing and the upper floors now house the offices of the ‘Direzione Compartimentale dei Tabacchi’.