Visit Lecce: discover the baroque style and more

Visit the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina

 

Frescoes Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina Apulia Italy

Visit the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina, our guided tours

If you are on holiday in Salento or are planning your trip to this beautiful part of the Puglia region, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful churches in Italy.

We are in Galatina to visit the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, an authentic masterpiece of medieval architecture and art. Inside you can admire beautiful cycles of frescoes that we will talk about to have an easy guide to visit the monument.

The church was built between 1383 and 1391 by order of Raimondello Orsini del Balzo, Count of the nearby town of Soleto and Prince of Taranto, to house a precious relic of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. At the death of Raimondello, in 1406, the work was completed by his wife Maria d'Enghien, to whom we owe the fresco decoration of the interior (early fifteenth century).

A curiosity: according to tradition, not supported by historical sources, Raimondello arrived in the Holy Land at the time of the Crusades, visited the monastery and the church of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. Here he remained three days to pray at the tomb of the saint; then in direct contact with her body, with a bite he tore a finger from the hand that led to Galatina giving it to the Basilica. The relic is kept in the Basilica Museum.



Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina Apulia Italy
The Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria


On the outside the facade is marked by three cusps: the lower side ones are not aligned with the side doors; the central one, higher, is occupied by a splendid rose window, typical of the Romanesque style

A series of arches all different decorate the profile of the church. The central portal is decorated with three bands of Lecce stone with plant motifs and animal figures.

Entering the interior of the Basilica you are fascinated by the beauty and decorative richness of the walls completely frescoed.

A curiosity: for the vastness of the pictorial cycles and for importance, the Basilica of Galatina is considered second only to the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi.

The interior of the church has three naves and two walkways. In the spaces of the central nave there is the splendid pictorial cycle that besides having an exceptional artistic value, constitutes an important historical testimony on many aspects of the daily life of the period: the aspect of the landscape, the civil and religious architecture, the fashion of the time, etc.

Local artists and painters from the Neapolitan court, where Giotto had also worked, participated in the realization of the decoration of the church of Galatina even if the names of them are not known.


Frescoes Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina Apulia Italy
Cycles of frescoes of the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria


The large pillars supporting the vaults divide the central nave into three bays. In the first span, starting from the right side, at the top, continuing on the counter-fa├žade and then on the left wall (and continuing in the same direction in the lower levels) you can read the scenes of the Cycle of the Apocalypse. On the vault, with a splendid blue background, the representation of the Virtues.

In the second span, always starting from the wall on the right and the frescoes on top, are placed the stories of Genesis: the creation of Adam, Adam and Eve in the Paradise, Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, Cain and Abel, the construction of the Ark, the Great Flood. On the vault the Triumph of the Church and the representation of the Sacraments.

In the third span, which is observed instead from left to right, are represented on the walls scenes of the life of Christ (Cycle of the New Testament): the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Passion of Christ. On the vault the Angelic Hosts.

The last section is represented by the presbytery with the Evangelists on the vaults and on the walls the scenes of the Life of Saint Catherine

The reading of the episodes of the saint’s life, to which the church is dedicated, proceeds from the top to the bottom but, in this case, first for the entire left wall and then on the right one.

In the panels we see the dispute between the saint and the emperor and the sages, the angels who destroy the wheel of martyrdom, Saint Catherine sitting on a throne, the angels who carry the body of the saint on Mount Sinai.

In this part of the church and in the apse are placed the cenotaphs (funerary monuments that do not contain the body of the deceased) of Raimondello and his son Giovanni Antonio.

Before leaving, let’s take a last look at the frescoes in the right side aisle with scenes from the life of Mary and the childhood of Christ. A great masterpiece!

Next to the Basilica you can also visit the quiet cloister of the convent of the Franciscan friars frescoed at the end of the seventeenth century. In the old refectory of the convent is housed the Museum, also this to see because it is here that the collection of relics is preserved.

It is time to continue our visit to Galatina. 

In the next itinerary in the historic center we will tell of ancient beliefs and musical traditions related to Tarantismo, a phenomenon that had in the past its moment of maximum expression in Galatina in June, during the religious feast of Saint Paul, protector of the city and the bite of poisonous animals (snakes or spiders, called: tarante).

A break with the typical sweet pasticciotto, which tradition believes was invented right here, and we will be ready to start again!



where to eat pasticciotto in galatina apulia italy
Pasticciotto, the typical sweet of Galatina



Enjoy a guided tour of the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Galatina village with our licensed guided.

Information and quote requests via email to my@best-time-italy.com or sending a message via WhatsApp at this link


Watch the virtual tour YouTube video recorded at the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Galatina!