The Baroque art in the Italian city of Lecce and other points in the region of Pugliais perhaps the most ornate baroque in Europe. And just look at this facade of the Basilica of the Holy Cross, completely full of reliefs and sculptures. An iconographic program overflowing with imagination, which was undoubtedly helped by the use of Lecce stone, which is a limestone rock that is relatively easy to work with by sculptors.
Basilica of the Holy Cross of Lecce
This temple as a whole was a long work of more than a century, since it began in 1548 and the work lasted until 1689, directed consecutively by several architects and sculptors: Gabriele Riccardi , Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, Giuseppe Zimbalo and Cesare Penna.
Between all of them they formed an exuberant ensemble and also of a certain chaotic appearance. And there are even somewhat extravagant notes such as peculiar monsters or nude figures integrated between the religious scenes. However, everything has a logical and symbolic order very much to the taste of the time and of that area in the south of Italy.
Specifically, the lowest part of the façade is a representation of the pagan world, which will only be saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, which is at the top of the façade. While above, the angels that crown thePapacy and the monarchy, representing at the same time the earthly and spiritual power, without whose presence order is unthinkable.
And finally, at the top you can see the rose window, a source of divine light, and a group of saints and allegories. All this surrounding the cross that occupies a central space.
Without a doubt, all that repertoire is a waste of imagination. The faithful and the viewer are overwhelmed by so many images. Something that calms down somewhat when you go inside, much cleaner. It is an enclosure with three elevated naves thanks to outstanding marble columns. It is a very bright interior, thanks to the rose window and also to the lantern of the great dome. The idea of this contrast between the exterior, the case, and the interior, a pure enclosure of faith, was already had by the first architect of the complex, Riccardi. And then the continuators of the work respected that spirit.
Although they did their own works like the altars at the head of the temple. In particular, the one on the left that is dedicated to San Francisco de Paula, the work of F. Antonio Zimbalo. While on the right is the Holy Cross of Cesare Penna. However, the entire temple is full of altars, since there are 14 more in its side naves, seven on each side and in each of the deep chapels. And all of them with an abundant decoration and integrated in that idea of the so-called baroque of Lecce.