The 14 Most Charming Churches in Lecce, Italy by JetSettingFools.com

The 14 Most Charming Churches in Lecce, Italy

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Lecce is home to an astounding number of churches; there are 22 churches in Lecce, Italy listed on the local tourist map of the historic city center. Found tucked down quiet cobblestone lanes and featured on spacious squares, Lecce churches were designed to impress. We were in awe of the many churches we visited – most of which feature the city’s signature architectural style: Baroque. 

 

Baroque Style Churches

Lecce, Italy is lavishly decorated is the opulent Baroque style; the city is sometimes called the Baroque Capital of Southern Italy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the ornamental architectural style dominated the city plans. Existing structures were renovated and new churches were built – all incorporating the extravagant style. 

What Is Baroque? 

The Baroque style features intricate carvings that create a sense of movement marked with impeccable details. Popular motifs are columns, statues, animals, plants and scrolls.

The style flourished throughout Europe; and it was especially favored by the Roman Catholic Church. Not only were church facades adorned in Baroque architecture, but many of the church interiors feature the artistic style as well. 

 

Churches in Lecce, Italy

We are highlighting our favorite Lecce churches – whether for the intricate architecture, decorative interior or storied past. Some churches are plain and simple, while a few are on the verge of being gaudy. Most churches display original works of art – dating back several centuries.

Visiting hours vary, but are usually reserved for the morning with a few reopening in the evening. Not all churches have posted opening hours – and some aren’t open when they say they will be (making it a little difficult to make a plan!).

For each Lecce church on our list, we provide a brief introduction and a link to Google Maps. At the end of the post, you will find a Lecce Map of Churches – as well as printable map with an easy walking route that connects our recommended churches.

New in 2019: During our Lecce visit, all churches were free to enter. We have learned, however, that in the Summer of 2019, the city (or churches, we are not sure which) have implemented a fee to visit some of the churches. A single 9 euro ticket provides access into the Cathedral, the Basilica Santa Croce, San Matteo and Santa Chiara. Guided tours are also an option. 

 

#1 Duomo Cathedral

{MAP} The Lecce Cathedral is the centerpiece of the Piazza del Duomo in Lecce, Italy, a nearly hidden square. The first church on the sight was built in 1114, then renovated in 1230. It was decorated in the Baroque style by famous architect Giuseppe Zimbolo in 1670. 

The Duomo Cathedral is unique in that is has two decorated facades. The church was built in the shape of a cross (like so many Catholic churches) and features a dark, wide interior. The rich interior includes decorative side altars, paintings and a crypt. 

Duomo Cathedral statue of Mary side altar in Lecce, Italy

 

#2 Basilica di Santa Croce

{MAP} The ornate exterior of the Basilica di Santa Croce is the epitome of the Leccese Baroque style (and is currently undergoing renovation). The design was created by architects Gabriele Riccardi, Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, Cesare Penna and Giuseppe Zimbalo over a period of three generations.

Built on the site of a previous church, construction commenced on the Santa Croce Church in 1549. The interior is decorated with 2 rows of simple columns and elaborate chandeliers. The vaulted wooden ceiling hosts a painting and features golden detailing. 

 

#3 Chiesa del Gesu

{MAP} Building commenced on Chiesa del Gesu in 1575, shortly after the Jesuits arrived in Lecce. By 1577, the church was already opened for services, although construction continued for decades. The interior is sumptuously decorated with both carvings and historic artwork.

Churches of Lecce, Italy: Chiesa del Gesu

 

#4 Chiesa di Sant’Irene

{MAP} Chiesa di Sant’Irene was built by Francesco Grimaldi from 1591-1639. The church was dedicated to Saint Irene – the Patron Saint of Lecce at the time. The Lecce coat of arms is displayed high above the door. Although the main altar is rather simple, the interior is enhanced with Baroque style side altars.

 

#5 Chiesa di Santa Chiara

{MAP} The Chiesa di Santa Chiara church was built in 1687 by Giuseppe Cino (although now this fact is being disputed). The church sits in place of a previous 15th century religious site. While the unusual facade is intriguing, the interior is extravagant – from the extensively embellished side altars to the beautiful wooden ceiling. 

 

#6 Chiesa di San Matteo

{MAP} Dedicated to Matthew the Apostle, the Chiesa di San Matteo church was built by Achille Larducci between 1667 and 1700. The church, which was built on the site of a previous 15th century church, appears to be wedged into too small of a space. The unique curved facade is the distinctive trait of San Matteo Church. While the exterior is of the Borromini style, interior altars are extensively decorated…in the Baroque style, of course.

 

#7 Chiesa di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli (or Chiesa di Sant’Angelo)

{MAP} Chiesa di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli was built by Giuseppe Zimbalo in 1663 as the convent of the Augustinians. The top of the facade was never completed. The phrase across the top of the lower portion roughly translates to: Mother of Constantinople from the beginning, dedicated and rebuilt 1663.

Facade of Chiesa di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli in Lecce, Italy

 

#8 Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista (or Basilica del Rosario)

{MAP} Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista was built on a previous church site dating back to 1388. Architect Giuseppe Zimbalo, then in his 70s, started new construction in 1691. He died in 1710 before it was finished, but the work was carried out in his style and completed in 1728. The interior is just as extravagant as the exterior. The ornately designed main altar is carved from local stone and there are 12 additional altars in the church. It was designated a Basilica by Pope Pius XII in 1948.

 

#9 Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace

{MAP} In comparison to most churches in Lecce, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace is rather plain, both inside and out. It was built between 1738 and 1742 by Mauro Manieri. We had the opportunity to visit the inside when a local artist was using the space as an art gallery.

Churches of Lecce, Italy: Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pace

 

#10 Chiesa di Santa Maria della Porta

{MAP} Rebuilt between 1852 and 1858 by Giuseppe Maialo da Maddaloni, the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Porta is in the shape of an octagon and has a plain, neo-classical facade. However, it’s the original chapel that has an intriguing story. In 1567, the chapel stood outside the city walls and displayed a picture of the Virgin Mary. When a crippled woman looked at the image, she was suddenly able to walk again. Considered a miracle, it was determined that the church should be expanded and included within the city walls. 

 

#11 Chiesa dei SS Nicolo e Cataldo

{MAP} Chiesa dei SS Nicolo e Cataldo was built by the Count of Lecce, Tancredi, in 1180. It was subsequently reconstructed over the years. A unique blend of cultural influences can be identified, including the Islamic dome and Medieval inscriptions. The Olivetans (Order of our Lady of Mount Olivet) occupied the church from the 1500s until 1807. During that time, statues were added to the exterior – specifically that of San Nicola. Next door, visitors can wander through an interesting and beautiful cemetery.

 

#12 Chiesa di Santa Maria Degli Angeli (or San Francesco di Paola)

{MAP} Built in the middle of the 16th century, Chiesa di Santa Maria Degli Angeli has undergone massive changes every century since. While the outside is quite plain, the inside is decorated with columns and hosts an array of fine paintings.

 

#13 Chiesa e Monastero di San Giovanni Evangelista

{MAP} The original convent and church, Chiesa e Monastero di San Giovanni Evangelista, were built in 1133 for Benedictine nuns. However, the church was completely rebuilt in 1607, with the addition of the clock in 1923.

Chiesa e Monastero di San Giovanni Evangelista in Lecce, Italy

 

#14 Chiesa di San Sebastiano

{MAP} The quaint Chiesa di San Sebastiano near the side entrance to the Duomo Cathedral is barely recognizable as a church except for the small cross on top. It was built in 1520 with donations received during the plague.

Chiesa di San Sebastiano church in Lecce, Italy


 

Map of Lecce Churches

 

 

Walking Route to 14 Churches in Lecce, Italy

Use this route to see all 14 Lecce churches. The self-guided walking tour is about 3 miles long and should take around 2-3 hours (depending on how long you spend inside each church). 

The Self-Guided Walking Tour to Lecce Churches does not follow the same order of the churches listed above. The route passes the churches in this order: 

  • Duomo Cathedral (#1)
  • Church of Saint Irene (#4)
  • Church of Saint Claire (#5)
  • Church of Saint Matthew (#6)
  • Church of San Sebastian (#14)
  • Church of Saint John the Baptist (#8)
  • Church of Saint Mary della Pace (#9)
  • Church of Saint Mary della Porta (#10)
  • Churches of Saints Nicolo and Cataldo (#11)
  • Church of Saint Maria Degli Angeli (#12)
  • Church of Saint Mary of Constantinopoli (#7)
  • Church of Saint John Benedictine Monastery (#13)
  • Church of Jesus (#3)
  • Basilica di Santa Croce (#2)

 

Click here for the route in Google Maps. NOTE: Not all churches are included in the link (excluded are San Sebastiano, Santa Maria della Pace, Santa Maria di Constantinopoli and Gesu) but the walking route passes by these churches. 

Churches of Lecce, Italy Map


 

Want more Lecce, Italy tips? Get our recommendations for top Lecce restaurants, fun bars in Lecce and our complete guide to the Best Things To Do in Lecce, Italy!

Top 10 Things to Do in Lecce, Italy by JetSettingFools.com

Top 10 Things to Do in Lecce, Italy

 

What You Will Need

When navigating the streets to the best Lecce churches, don’t forget these things!

Appropriate Attire

When visiting the churches, it is important to wear appropriate attire (dress modestly). Also, wear comfortable city walking shoes (like these, by Columbia).

Camera

The churches in Lecce are stunningly beautiful! Be sure to bring your camera to capture the sights! We use a Canon Rebel with an 18-135mm lens that takes wonderful photos, but also carry a Canon Powershot that is lightweight and fits into a pocket. 

Travel Insurance

While it is unlikely you will need travel insurance while visiting churches, the insurance can protect against mishaps and injuries. Check rates and coverage at World Nomads!

 

We want to know: Have you visited the churches of Lecce, Italy? Which one is your favorite? Are there any other Lecce churches you would add to our list? Tell us in the comments!

 

Start planning your trip to Lecce! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!

 

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27 thoughts on “The 14 Most Charming Churches in Lecce, Italy

  1. Pingback: Puglia Travel : What to do in Lecce Italy - Melange Travel

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  3. Pingback: Puglia Travel : What to do in Lecce Italy | Melange Travel

  4. Anonymous

    The churches are so ornate its mind boggling that they were built before electricity. power tools. compressors cranes etc. is the temperature conducive to working year round?

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