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Church of Sant'Irene

Construction of the Church of Sant’Irene

The Church of Sant'Irene, known as the Church of the Theatines, was built in honour of St. Irene of Thessalonica, Patron Saint of Lecce prior to 1656, the year in which the patronage of St. Oronzo was granted to Lecce by Pope Alexander VII. The building was completed by master craftsmen from Lecce to a design by the Theatine Francesco Grimaldi, between 1591 and 1639, and funded by the University. In 1639 the church was solemnly consecrated by the Bishop of Brindisi.

Traditionally considered to have been modelled on the Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome, on which Grimaldi himself also worked, this church was built later than Sant 'Andrea delle Dame and S. Paolo Maggiore di Napoli, which represent the most likely architectural precedents for the Basilica of Lecce, but the classicism of these two churches is rendered more austere by the work of local stonemasons supervised by Antonio Rienzo and Giambattista Perulli.

The façade of Church

The double- ordered façade is lined with half-columns, one above the other and columns interspersed with niches and scrolls below and large windows above. Above the doorway is a statue of the Saint sculpted in 1717 by M. Manieri, originally plated in bronze. Higher up on the string-course ledge is the town's coat of arms, a wolf with a holm-oak wreath, while in the centre of the pediment are the insignia of the Theatine order, symbolically completing the iconological links, highlighted in the façade, between the Theatines and the city.

The interior

The interior has a single nave and deep chapels along the sides with sumptuous altars, in particular in the transept, attributed to Francesco Antonio Zimbalo. Artists who worked on the church include Cesare Penna, G. Cino, M. Manieri, G Verrio, O. Tiso and the Theatine Fathers F.M. Galletti and P. Caracciolo, creator of the monumental shrine that sits on the main altar.

Paintings of note include a marvellous , canvas by Tiso depicting “The Transport of the Ark” on the wall of the apse, moved here from the Cathedral.

pianta chiesa sant irene lecce

The right transept

In the right transept is an 18th-century altar dedicated to Carlo Borromeo, who is portrayed in a painting flanked by a pair of twisted columns. In the left transept stands a fine altar dedicated to St. Irene, filled with decorations and statues, including the busts of nine, saints in niches occupying the central part of the altar which is also flanked by spiralling columns.

A bit of history about the Church of Sant'Irene

In the past he church's bell tower was used as a telegraph station, and in 1860 the church was used as operational centre for a plebiscite on the Unification of Italy. In 1866, following the suppression of the Theatines, the church remained open for public worship and was entrusted to a Theatine of Lecce, Personè.

On the 18th of January 1809 orders were given for the church and its adjoining monastery to be taken over by the Town Council of Lecce on the condition that public worship would continue. The entire complex fits in perfectly with the surrounding urban environment, just as the work of the regular clergy must have blended in with the spiritual and everyday life of the people of Lecce.ph station, and in 1860 the church was used as operational centre for a plebiscite on the Unification of Italy. In 1866, following the suppression of the Theatines, the church remained open for public worship and was entrusted to a Theatine of Lecce, Personè. On the 18th of January 1809 orders were given for the church and its adjoining monastery to be taken over by the Town Council of Lecce on the condition that public worship would continue. The entire complex fits in perfectly with the surrounding urban environment, just as the work of the regular clergy must have blended in with the spiritual and everyday life of the people of Lecce.

 

Font: Street Totem.

 

Tags: church, bell tower

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