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Home CITTÀ DEL SALENTO Lecce e dintorni Lecce and surrounding area
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Lecce and surrounding area

Città del Salento - Lecce

Famous all over the world as one of the capitals of the Baroque, Lecce imposes itself with its unique characteristic appearance.

A Baroque style defined as ‘barochetto’ by art historians of the 19th century, whose decorative motifs are the most varied, the most imaginative and the farthest from the traditional artistic canons.

As well as for the inventive local sculptors and imaginative engineers, the monuments’ splendor is due above all to the particular kind of stone, called ‘leccisu’, which for its extraordinary workability has allowed the carving of the most varied and extravagant decorative motifs.

Nevertheless Lecce is also an archeological city which shows traces of Ancient civilizations that followed each other over the centuries in Salento: Ranging from the fortifications to the hypogea of the Messapic city, called “città messapica” by its first inhabitants, to the major roman sights such as the Theatre and Amphitheatre in Piazza Sant’Oronzo.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the city suffers a slow decline, Otranto becoming the most important city in Salento during the Byzantine era. The Normans will renew the city’s prestige with the construction of palaces and religious buildings such as the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista and those dedicated to the Saints Niccolò and Cataldo. The Swabian and Angevin domination left instead very few traces such as the Towers del Parco and di Belloluogo.

We have to wait until the 16th century to rediscover great monuments of the Renaissance period. This period includes the reconstruction of the Castle of Lecce and its fortifications , ordered by Charles V, and a new building impulse is given, religious and residential, with the construction of palaces and churches. The first phase of the Basilica di Santa Croce, jewel of the ‘Barocco leccese’, in fact, dates back to this period, as well as the Church of Sant’Irene.

This brings us to the ‘Barocco leccese’, Baroque of Lecce: the city takes on a new face. Palaces, churches, convents are rebuilt or refashioned according to the new stylistic canons and everywhere begin to appear emblems, heraldic arms indicating clearly the patrons of such building fervor. Piazza Duomo is completely remodeled with the construction of a new Cathedral, the Bell Tower and the Seminary and this will continue throughout the 18th century when the Bishop’s Palace is rebuilt and the square is given, through two propylaea overhung by balconies with big statues of saints, a monumental entrance to the Piazza. New religious buildings rise from the city, such as the Church of San Matteo, of Santa Chiara or still the Church of the Rosario, of Sant’Anna and of Santa Teresa. And it is in the 1600s that the Basilica di Santa Croce is given its final appearance that amazes whoever stands before it.

Few are the changes that were brought to the city in the following centuries. The Baroque style will remain the primary characteristic of the city on an artistic level, for its peculiarities that set it apart from the rest and make it a fundamental tourist and artistic destination in Italy.


 
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