Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross), Lecce

Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross), Lecce (must see)

It was an old story in the 16th century: evict the Jews and use the land to build a church. Walter VI, Count of Brienne, had founded a monastery (Palace of the Celestines) here in the 14th century. Jews were living where the new church was to be joined to the monastery. In 1510 they were ousted from Lecce. In 1549 construction had begun.

The basilica project was plodded on for more than a hundred years. Architects Gabriele Riccardi, Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, and Cesare Penna, with the help of master stone masons from Lecce, completed the work in 1699. The church facade is lavishly decorated in a high Baroque style. Not for nothing Lecce is called "the Florence of the South."

The upper facade decorations were completed by Giuseppe Zimbalo, the nephew of Francesco Antonio. The base facade is supported by six smooth columns, three on each side of the main portal, which is flanked by four shorter columns, two on each side. The entablature is covered with bizarre, grotesque animals and strange flora.

The coats of arms include those of Philip III of Spain, Mary of Enghien, and Walter VI of Brienne. The side portals carry the arms of the Celestines. Telemons represent Turks taken prisoner at the Battle of Lepanto. Animals under the balustrade represent the Christian powers at Lepanto.

The interior is a Latin cross. Two of the five aisles are now side chapels. The high altar of the present day was removed from the church of Saints Niccolo and Cataldo in 1956. Paintings are Adoration of the Shepherds, Annunciation, Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and The Flight to Egypt.

The wooden ceiling was rebuilt in 1800. The dome of 1590 is intact. There is a total of sixteen baroque altars. The most ornate is the altar dedicated to Saint Francis of Paola. It was created by Francesco Antonio Zimbalo in 1615. It can be found in the left transept. It is regarded as the most exalted sample of Baroque sculpture in Lecce.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Lecce. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) on Map

Sight Name: Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross)
Sight Location: Lecce, Italy (See walking tours in Lecce)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Lecce, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Lecce

Create Your Own Walk in Lecce

Creating your own self-guided walk in Lecce is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Lecce Introduction Walking Tour

Lecce Introduction Walking Tour

The beginning of Lecce is a legend. According to the story, a town existed close to the location of today's Lecce, dating from the Trojan Wars. The town was taken by Romans in the 3rd century BC. They called it "Lupiae." The Roman Emperor Hadrian didn't like the location, so he moved it 2 miles to the northeast. Lecce had a theatre and an amphitheater which can be partially...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Lecce's Baroque Churches Walking Tour

Lecce's Baroque Churches Walking Tour

Often defined as the “Capital of Baroque” – an artistic trend born in Italy in the 17th century, the town of Lecce has this signature style present in most of the buildings throughout its historic center. Characterized by elaborate facades and the extensive use of local stone known as "pietra leccese", Lecce's Baroque architecture reached its pinnacle in the form of churches,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles