Tourist Attraction in Lecce: Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista
The basilica of San Giovanni Battista al Rosario is a church in the historic center of Lecce. Parish seat since 1914, was built for the Dominicans by architect Giuseppe Zimbalo between 1691 and 1728. In it the Lecce architect recommended that he find burial. It is located in Via Giuseppe Libertini, a few steps from Porta Rudia. The present-day building at the end of the 17th century was built on the site of a previous structure dating back to 1388, when the Dominican fathers arrived in Lecce. The founding date of the new building is March 6, 1691 and construction works were entrusted to the 70-year-old Joseph Zimbalo, who personally contributed to the funding. In 1710 Zimbalo died and the construction site was completed in 1728 by other artists, including Giulio Cesare Penna, the young man and Leonardo Protopapa. In 1948, by the will of Pope Pius XII, the church was declared a minor basilica. The exuberant prospectus is divided into two orders by a balustrade decorated with trophies of flowers and statues placed on spherical pedestals depicting the visions of the prophet Ezekiel. The lower order is centered by two large, grooved columns framing a large portal, surmounted by the Dominican symbol and the statue of Saint Dominic of Guzman. At the sides of the portal there are two niches hosting the stone statues of St. John the Baptist and blessed Francis of the Order of the Preachers. At the center of the balustrade, the divide between the two orders, at the large central window, is the statue of the Virgin; other statues are instead placed in the large niches, on the axis with those of the lower order. The facade ends with another baluster and with a broken tympanum. Below, there are two high plinths on the sides of the whole prospect, on one of which stands the statue of St. Thomas Aquinas. The interior is a Greek cross with a large octagonal compartment covered by wooden trellises. Originally, the project included dome cover, made unrealizable by the amplitude and death of Zimbalo. Along the perimeter of the octagon, on the pillars on which the various coats of arms of the families contributing to the creation of the church are carved, there are the stone statues of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Paul , St. Peter, St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, and St. Jerome. The entire inner perimeter is marked by twelve short chapels with as many exuberant Baroque altars, also arranged in the octagonal crucifix chapels. At the entrance are the altars of St. Catherine of Siena and the Baptism of Jesus, both of the first half of the eighteenth century and realized on the design of Mauro Manieri. The altar of the Nativity of Jesus, the Madonna of the Rosary and the Nativity of Mary follows the perimeter of the left arm. The presbytery hosts the main altar in Lecce stone and numerous paintings are preserved on the wall, including the central figure depicting the Preaching of the Baptist, the 17th century opera by the painter Alessandro Oronzo Letizia. In the right arm of the cross are the altars of the Assumption, of the Crucifix and of Santa Rosa da Lima, the latter with a canvas of 1735 by the Lecce painter Serafino Elmo. The four altars in the chapels of the octagon are dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincenzo Ferrer, Saint Dominic and Saint Peter Martyr. Of particular interest is the chiseled pulpit with the scene of the vision of the Apocalypse, the only one of the Lecce churches to be made of stone. The cenotaph of Antonio De Ferrariis, known as the Galateo, with portraits and marble epigraphs of 1561 and 1788 is preserved on the countercut.