You have spent half of your holiday in Salento laid on the soft sandy beaches, when you realize that there is much more to know about this land. Salento, in fact, is also a place of cultural contaminations that have produced many important artistic results.
Baroque, Romanesque and Gothic style sign the passage in this land of various dominations over the centuries.
Here we recommend an itinerary of sacred art with the seven churches and basilicas that worth a visit if you are keen in history of art or if you want to know more about this land.
Basilica of Santa Croce, in the old town of Lecce, is one of the highest expressions of the Baroque style. Built between 1549 and 1646, by the three architects Riccardi, Penna and Zimbalo, the Basilica will leave you enchanted by the splendor of the façade finely decorated with flower sculptures, fruits, mythological figures, statues of men and zoomorphic figures. The rose window with three inner rings enriches its appearance. Inside, the layout is a Greek cross and has three naves.
ABBEY OF CERRATE – SQUINZANO-CASALABATE
The Abbey, which takes its name from the town where it stands (about 15 km north of Lecce) is one of the most significant examples of Romanesque of Otranto. The site was founded, according to the legend, at the end of the 12th century by Tancredi d’Altavilla, count of Lecce, following the apparition of Mary, between the horns of a deer, hence the toponym (Cerrate or Cervate).
BASILICA OF SANTA CATERINA D’ALESSANDRIA – GALATINA
It is one of the most famous monuments of Apulian and Gothic Romanesque art in Puglia and is located in the old town of Galatina.
The Basilica, built by the Orsini Del Balzo family, is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The five naves completely frescoed with pictorial cycles of the Giotto school make the Church one of the most important in Italy, second only to the Basilica of Assisi.
CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DELLA CROCE – CASARANO
Also known as the church of Casaranello, from the town where it stands, the church of Santa Maria della Croce is among the oldest Christian places of worship in the world and one of the oldest monuments in Puglia. The value of the building is enhanced by the presence of early Christian mosaics, Byzantine and Gothic frescoes.
CATHEDRAL OF THE ANNUNZIATA – OTRANTO
In Romanesque style with Byzantine and Gothic influences, the Cathedral of Otranto has three naves and host Byzantine style frescoes. At the entrance you can admire the 12th century floor mosaic depicting “the Tree of Life”, which covers the entire nave. The mosaic, created by the monk Pantaleone, consists of over 600,000 pieces of limestone composition and mixes the sacred and secular scenes.
The crypt of the 11th century has 9 aisles and 72 columns with Ionic, Corinthian, Byzantine and Islamic capitals where the skulls of the martyrs were massacred by the Turks in 1480.
CHURCH OF SAN GIUSEPPE – COPERTINO
The building has a central plan and has three altars inside. The sober interior contrasts with a concave façade with carparo scrolls. The project of the sanctuary was started in 1753, the year of beatification of fra Giuseppe Desa, and it was completed in 1758.
BASILICA CATTEDRALE MARIA SS ASSUNTA – NARDO’
Originally called “Abbey” dating back to the 11th century, the basilica, located in the heart of the old town of Nardò, stands on the foundations of a cult building of probable early Christian era. The church has 3 aisles inside. The remains of the wall frescoes are dated between 1300 and 1400. Among the treasures we can admire the “Black” Crucifix from 1200.
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