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Basilica Di Santa Croce

The glories of Puglia’s lovely town of Lecce came into being in 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. The glorious centerpiece of all this gorgeousness is undoubtedly the Basilica di Santa Croce, a swirling mass of ornate Baroque patterning crawling with garlands, statuary, mythical beasts and gargoyles, all fronted with a colonnaded façade that is dominated by a vast rose window.

Work began on this madcap architectural frippery in 1549 on the site of an earlier Celestine monastery, and the basilica was finally consecrated in 1695. Three generations of architects worked on the construction over the decades, with the most notable being Giuseppe Zimballo –better known as Lo Zingarello (the gypsy) – who was the star Puglian architect of the period.