The Cathedral of Maria Santissima Assunta forms Lecce's beautiful baroque heart, dominating Piazza Duomo at the point where the historic centre’s main arteries cross. Its bell tower is one of the highest in Europe and is topped by a flag of the city's Patron Saint, Sant'Oronzo.
Anyone stepping onto the square will be bowled over by the sight of what is actually the side of the Cathedral, lavishly decorated with a series of masterfully chiselled statues.
The main, more sober, façade boasts a massive bronze portal made by Giacomo Manzù for the Jubilee of 2000. Inside, a soft light envelops the aisles and the nave between the altars, while exquisite marble and gold-plated touches frame the gorgeous Pala dell’Assunta (Altarpiece of the Assumption) over the main altar.
Built in 1571, the square-shaped crypt has four rows of columns decorated with Romanesque capitals. Also worth visiting is Palazzo del Seminario, home of the Diocesan Museum next to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral of Maria Santissima Assunta is Lecce's Mother Church and the principal Cathedral of the Diocese. The construction works began in 1144 and was completed in 1230, but the church was later refashioned by Giuseppe Zimbalo between 1659 and 1670 at the behest of Archbishop Luigi Pappacoda. Elements surviving from the original Cathedral include a bust of Braccio Martelli (a Florentine bishop of Lecce), a nativity scene carved in stone by the 16th-century Lecce-born sculptor Gabriele Riccardi, and a statue of Saint John the Baptist.
If the main entrance is discreet, the lateral façade is majestic. Rococo in style, and shaped like an imposing triumphal arch, it serves as an extraordinary calling card for the Duomo, itself a masterpiece of barocco leccese (Lecce Baroque) designed by the renowned architect Giuseppe Zimbalo. The grandiose interior is set out on a Latin cross plan with two aisles and a nave, this one covered by a wooden gilt coffered ceiling. Of particular note are the altars with Solomonic columns decorated with plant and animal motifs.
A precious treasure trove of Baroque art, the Cathedral harbours several valuable paintings. These include: “La Predicazione di Sant'Oronzo” (“The Sermon of Saint'Oronzo”), “La Cacciata della Peste” (“The End of the Plague”), “Il Martirio di Sant’Oronzo (“The Martyrdom of Sant'Oronzo), and “L’Ultima Cena” (“The Last Supper”). The main altar, made of bronze and marble in Neapolitan style, is dedicated to Maria Assunta. Marvelous 18th century paintings by Oronzo Tiso depict “L’Assunta” (“the Assumption”), “Il Sacrificio di Noè” (“Noah's Sacrifice”) and “La Sfida di Elia ai Sacerdoti di Baal” (“Elijah's Challenge to the Prophets of Baal”). The magnificent wooden chorus also dates back to the 18th century.
Piazza Duomo 73100 Lecce +390832308557 Go the the website
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