Basilica di S. Giovanni Battista (Cattedrale)
|NAME||Basilica di S. Giovanni Battista (Cattedrale)|
|OPENING HOURS||All days|
The basilica of St John the Baptist dates back to the Norman age and its building started in 1089 with Pope Urban II to be later finished in 1143. The basilica of St John the Baptist saw important events for the city history like Roger III’s coronation and marriage and also Frederick II’s marriage to Isabella (or Yolanda) of Brienne. The Cathedral was a very important place for the crusaders who stopped in the town before setting sail for the Holy Land.
The proof of the age of the Cathedral can be found in the presence of several relics such as St. Theodore’s. Because of the earthquake in 1743, the church, almost reduced to rubble, had to be restored.
Nowadays, of the original Romanesque church only three naves without a transept remain. The bell tower, visible behind the church, was bombed by the Allies during Second World War. It was rebuilt following the old planimetry.
The statues of the façade represent St. Theodore, St. Paul, St. Leucio and St. Giustino.
When you visit the Cathedral, you can’t miss the beautiful wooden choir placed on the altar. Imagine that it dates back to the 16th century and it survived the earthquake which destroyed the church. The importance of this choir lays in the fact that the builder indulged in curving scenes like the one in which Saint Giorgio killed the dragon or the one in which Saint Theodore pierced the devil. An interesting activity could be recognising who is hidden behind these engravings. Look carefully and you will notice the artist’s self-portrait!
If you are curious about mosaics you are in the right place! Here you can see the wonderful mosaic floor, at the end of the left nave. Some fragments have survived the destruction wanted by Raffaele Carino. They represent a tree, some zoomorphic figures and some episodes based on the Chanson de Roland.
If you are in Brindisi at the beginning of September you can’t miss the characteristic procession on the sea in honour of St. Theodore. The first boat procession happened on 27th April, 1776 to remember a miraculous episode. In fact, it is said that in 1220, St. Theodore’s relics were thrown in the sea to protect them against the Turkish ships. Later the relics headed towards the inner-city harbour by themselves.
What to find in the area
Roman columns and Virgilio staircase
Seafront (Virgilio Monument)
Saint Theresa’s square
Victoria’s square (De Torres Fountain)
Archbishop’s library: founded in 1798 by the archbishop Annibale De Leo. It contains 150.000 volumes. This year it was recognised as the best public library in “Terra d’Otranto”. (Schedules: Monday to Friday 8.30-13.00/15.30-18.00)
Balsamo Loggia: it is a balcony which is part of a building of the 14th century. It is richly decorated and it is thought that in the past it was the place of an Angiovin mint.
Where to take photos
Roman Columns and Virgilian staircase
Saint Theresa’s square. From its panoramic view-point you can have a breath-taking view of the harbour.
Suggestion: please, visit these places at sunset because the sky and the sea turn red. A sight for sore eyes!