Salento is not just a region, it is also a culture, which you can experience simply by visiting the city of Lecce to admire the historical beauty of its buildings, including
the beautiful Chiesa di San Sebastiano, headquarters of the Palmieri Foundation.
La Fondazione Palmieri – the Palmieri Foundation
The Fondazione Palmieri (non-profit association) was created with the well-defined aim of bringing the culture of Salento to the world.
The restoration of the ancient Chiesa di San Sebastiano, the foundation’s headquarters, located in the heart of Lecce’s old city in Via Dei Sotterranei, was the first step on a far more ambitious journey aiming to protect and conserve not only Lecce’s rich cultural tradition, but also its many centuries of history – a history often forgotten or hidden away behind crumbling ancient walls and the grand ruins of noble buildings, for it is here that, to use Pirandello’s words, you can hear the echo of a thousand voices.
The Duomo of Lecce – main features
The Duomo, known as the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, dates back to 1144, when Bishop Formoso set about building it. With the passage of time, changes and renovations have made to the Duomo, one of the most beautiful and sought-after sightseeing destinations in the city. In the year 1230, changes were made by the bishop, Roberto Voltorico, in the romanesque style used at the time.
The Duomo’s construction underwent further development and evolution over the course of the following centuries under the auspices of successive bishops, who also consulted the prominent architect Giuseppe Zimbalo in order to add a baroque character to the building. Final works were completed in 1670, when the Duomo was consecrated by Bishop Pappacoda.
The unique characteristics of the Duomo are immediately noticeable on entering the Piazza del Duomo, and what first strikes the eye is its very elaborate baroque façade. Once inside the actual church, a visitor will notice straight away that he or she has not come through the main entrance, but rather that there is an additional side entrance, which is not in the piazza, but rather at a crossing to one side. This second entrance is far less elaborate and boasts less baroque decoration. Current thinking is that the masons and architects who worked on the building over the centuries focused their attention on the main façade in the middle of the piazza, thus explaining the relative simplicity of this part of the building in comparison to the façade in Piazza Duomo.
To be admired at the side entrance are two statues representing Saint Peter and Saint Paul as well as Saint Januarius and Saint Louis of Toulouse.
On entering the Duomo, the subdivision of the three naves divided by half-columns can be seen. Immediately striking is the rich and vast array of decoration; there are even twelve altars in addition to the main altar and, while viewing the interior, many beautiful works of art created over the centuries by the numerous artists summoned to the task of beautifying and enriching the church are to be admired.
The unique artistic heritage of the Duomo has been created over the long centuries by such famous masters as Giuseppe da Brindisi, Oronzo Tiso and Gianserio Strafella to name but a few of the most well-known figures.
The Bell Tower
The Duomo’s bell tower stands proudly over its church and was completed between 1661 (the completion of the actual church) and the very final works carried out in about 1682. Giuseppe Zimbalo was asked to see to the architectural side of works and carry the project through to completion. The bell tower we admire today was intended to replace the previous tower, the Norman construction desired by Goffredo D’Altavilla, which had collapsed in the early 1600s.
Finally, the Episcopio, the Archbishop of Lecce’s episcopal palace, to the right of the Duomo needs to be mentioned.The Episcopio is of unique beauty and should be an absolute must to visit and learn about on every visitor to Salento’s itinerary – especially, of course, a visitor to Lecce.
Do not miss out on the opportunity to admire the Duomo and all of the other beautiful buildings and monuments in the city in their characteristic baroque style so typical of Lecce.