In a city famous for its gorgeous baroque architecture, the Basilica di Santa Croce is a standout. With a glorious stone facade decorated with ornately carved animals, gargoyles, flora, and a large rose window, this 17th-century masterpiece is a feast for the eyes and a highlight of Lecce. The Basics
The city of Lecce is home to some of the most magnificent baroque architecture in Europe, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, when peace in the region enabled religious orders and wealthy benefactors—including Emperor Charles V—to transform the town from sleepy backwater to the baroque gem of southern Italy.
Walking, bike, and rickshaw tours of the city include stops at architectural highlights including the Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce Cathedral (Duomo), and Palazzo dei Celestini. These can be combined with a stop in one of the city’s historic papier-mâché workshops.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Lecce and its baroque treasures are especially fascinating for architecture buffs.
- You must have your shoulders and knees covered to enter the basilica.
- Due to a short flight of steps at the entrance, the basilica is not accessible to wheelchair users.
- Bring a camera with an excellent zoom lens to capture the details of the facade.
How to Get There
Basilica di Santa Croce is a short walk from the city’s main Piazza Sant'Oronzo, through a picturesque warren of streets in the old town.
When to Get There
An especially memorable time to visit Lecce and its architectural masterpieces is in late August, when the town celebrates its three patron saints with light displays, music, and festivities. The History of Lecce’s Baroque Jewel
Work on the sumptuous Basilica di Santa Croce began in 1549 on the site of an earlier Celestine monastery and land confiscated from Lecce’s Jewish citizens, and the church was finally consecrated in 1695. Three generations of architects worked on the construction over the decades, the most notable being Giuseppe Zimbalo—better known as Lo Zingarello (Little Gypsy), the city’s most respected architect of the period. Along with Cesare Penna, Zimbalo was responsible for the upper level of the basilica’s facade, the most intricate and detailed.