Saturday, 24 June 2017

'Barocco leccese'


There are hazards to visiting Italy and setting your heart on seeing particular treasures as I have discovered over the course of many, many, visits.
Years ago, my youngest son did History of Art at school, and I took him to Florence for a few days so that he could view the paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance that he was passionate about seeing.  One of the many places on his list was a visit to the church of Santa Maria where he longed to see the great frescoe cycle in the Brancacci Chapel done by the young Renaissance painter, Masaccio. Although Masaccio died when he was only 27 years old, and despite his brief career, he had a profound influence on all the other artists during that Quattrocento period. We made our way to the chapel only to discover that the particular cycle he wanted to see was under wraps for restoration - needless to say my son was hugely disappointed. I myself have visited the cathedral of Orvieto twice, three years apart, in order to see a particular frescoe by Luca Signorelli, and both times it has been under wraps. After visiting Italy so many times I now realise that it is best not to set too high an expectation of seeing particular treasures in order to avoid disappointment. It was, therefore, no surprise to discover that the baroque exterior of the Basilica in Lecce that I was looking foward to seeing was under wraps!
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The city of Lecce 'Florence of the South'
I was comfortable with the buildings in Lecce - they had a familiarity to them being made of a similar honey coloured limestone that surrounds me back home in the Cotswolds
Many of the balconies in Lecce are held up by a variety of wonderful cavorting beasts - horses, lions, and mythical creatures or as in this case sheep.
It is early afternoon and the Duomo along with the Bell Tower are now shut, fortunately we visited the inside during the morning. What we found extraordinary was that we were able to stand in the sunshine and admire this building and have it completely to ourselves. Carved by Giuseppe Zimbalo, architect and sculptor he was known as 'Lo Zingarello' (little gypsy). He earned the Baroque city of Lecce the title of 'Barocco leccese' which flourished under his guidance during the mid c17th
Bell Tower
From far below the Bell Tower I could just make out a ceramic tiled roof which I endeavoured to capture. When I put the photo into the computer I was very surprised to spot the bronze figure of St. Oronzo which was not visible from the ground. He is holding an orb and cross, the symbol of Christian authority from the Middle Ages. St. Oronzo was appointed to be the Bishop of Lecce by St. Paul in AD57 and some of you may remember that we encountered him previously in the little white hilltop town of Ostuni.  
Bizzarely, in one of these Seminary buildings, castrato singers were once supplied to the Vatican! A practice that fortunately ceased towards the end of the c18th.
 Here is St. Oronzo once again dominating the centre of Lecce - he keeps on popping up all over southern Italy. The column he stands on is from antiquity and once marked the end of the Appian Way - one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic which ran all the way from Rome to nearby Brindisi. The people of Brindisi presented this column to the city of Lecce.
In the Piazza of St. Oronzo is a first century Roman theatre which was discovered in the 1930s. Hidden beneath the main city streets, it was found to be virtually intact complete with orchestra and seats
Down narrow alleyways
and through arcaded passages
we arrive at Lo Zingarello's crowning glory - the basillica of Santa Croce
with its exuberant Baroque rose window
and elaborate exterior covered in many hidden messages and symbols. The caryatid above represents a turbaned warrior from Assia Minor, now Turkey. It is giving out a message regarding the feelings of the people of Lecce towards their invaders. This warrior is now destined to hold up their basilica forever!
the above 3 images courtesy Wiki
Inside the exuberance continues, but I didn't feel that it was too much - I liked it 
In Lecce, unlike northern Italian cities, when the clock strikes one until 4 o'clock you can enjoy the whole place virtually to yourselves.
This is the final post from the Apulia region of Southern Italy.

25 comments:

  1. Dear Rosemary, Your artistic eye caught the beauty of the pink blossoms against the rose colored stone.
    I'm almost sad that there won't be any more beautiful images and wonderful (and informative) posts about the Apulia region... one of my favorite areas of Italy.
    I had the same experience planning a trip around just one ceramic mural by Giacomo Mancini for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello, Italy. It had been moved to a side chapel, roped off and covered in heavy plastic, and that is where it is to this day.

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    1. Dear Gina - I too have visited Spello when we stayed just outside Spoleto. We explored all of that region many years ago going to Lake Trasimeno and over the mountains to Norca. Loved it there - you have reminded me that we should try and return again one day.

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  2. What a beautiful place, not over the top at all. We too learned that when visiting Italy to play it by ear. Once in Rome everyone was on strike so we spent all our time at the \Vatican figuring God wouldn't be on strike.

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    1. We are so pleased that we managed to see so much of the Apulia region of southern Italy, tiring but well worth it.

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  3. Such beautiful photos on a sunny day. I especially like the one of the lantern on the narrow street.

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    1. Thanks Janey - everyday in Italy was exactly the same - sunshine from dawn to dusk with blue skies.

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  4. Hello Rosemary, All those cherubs and caryatids in Lecce lend an almost surreal effect. I know about the disappointment of traveling to visit something and it not being available. When I went to Washington both the Dayton Miller collection and the Folger Library were closed, and when I went to San Francisco, so was the entire De Young museum. I found enough other things to see, but when something is important, it is best to call first and check, and make a special appointment if possible.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - it is much easier to check out information now that we have the internet. Finding out what was happening in other countries was virtually impossible years ago

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  5. Beautiful architecture and such ornate decorations! Interesting tile roof too.

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  6. Oh my goodness, so amazing to see the architecture, ornate it certainly is - amazing how all those years ago people were so very clever.

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    1. Love the city of Lecce everywhere you look there is something new and interesting to see and appreciate

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  7. I have enjoyed your pictures of Southern Italy very much Rosemary, particularly as everything is new to me. The exuberant carving is wonderful, especially that rose window full of angels. It is amazing to think they found an ancient theatre, buried there all those years, and looking great. I wonder do they hold theatrical events there today? I would like to think so. The ceramic tiled roof on the bell tower is a surprise, and looks rather modern too. So many new and interesting things to see!

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    1. They do hold theatrical and musical events in the Roman theatre Patricia - it is situated right in the very heart of Lecce.
      There are lots of ceramic tiled roofs in southern Italy and as far as I know they are all original. They do appear to be very robust and wear well - I am reminded too of the ceramic tiled roofs that I have seen in China with dragons etc. many from ancient dynasties which are all original too. The joy of using ceramics is that they don't fade either.

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  8. So much great art to see in Italy so I suppose a few items covered up for restoration is reasonable when you consider that Rosslyn Chapel alone resembled a building site for the last 10 years, undergoing essential repairs to the roof structure.
    Being picked as a castrato was an interesting concept, taking children away at a young age to be chopped and trained with no guarantee of success or rewards at the end of it. Nice photo set. Antony Hergerty's voice and songs being a modern version close to the original idea. This device also seems to crop up as a twist in 'Let the Right One In' to great effect.

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    1. For some strange reason there were three country areas where boys were drawn from to become castrati singers. It was poor parents who handed them over - as a result they often became rich when their sons were sucessful. Lecce was one area, Norcia in the mountains was another, and Pistoia near Florence. As it happens I have been to Norica and Pistoia too but did not discover about this until I was in Lecce.

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  9. Dearest Rosemary,
    Yes, we all have lived with such disappointments when traveling for seeing a particular artist's work.
    Love these photos, so well taken and showing all its beauty and detail.
    One can only admire this Baroque style!
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - I am so pleased that you enjoyed the photos - your comment has made my day - thank you. Lecce is a lovely, lovely city which was a pleasure to photograph.

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  10. Hello, Rosemary! I like to see the architectures made of limestone and the ornately carved inside and outside. Excavation of a first Roman theater is amazing. I really enjoyed this photo tour.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - thank you - when you have enjoyed visiting a place yourself so much it is lovely to learn that others have also enjoyed seeing it as well.

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  11. what a beautiful place Italy is!
    I have never been to Southern Italy but loved the north when we visited.
    xxx

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    1. Try and visit if you can, but quickly, before it becomes as popular as the north.

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  12. Quanta arte a céu aberto. Não apenas Firenze, mas a Itália inteira.

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