Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate
Concession by the Province of Lecce, 2012
Special restoration opening
Free-of-charge, unrestricted access
The Abbey will be open on March,21 and 22, from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.
The Abbey is on restoration. Please call (0039) 02 467615325 or write to email@example.com to verify the opening hours and/or to reserve a guided tour.. The Abbey will close from January 7th through February 28th, 2015.
View the photo gallery
Historical and architectural outline
Legend has it that the Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate in Lecce was founded by King Tancred of Hauteville, to whom the Virgin appeared after he had chased a doe into a cave. The Abbey dates from the 12th century: in that period, it played host to a group of Basilian monks. Over time, it became one of the most important religious centres in southern Italy. In 1531, the complex came under the control of the Ospedale degli Incurabili di Napoli (Hospital of the Incurables of Naples): alongside the Church, the complex encompassed cowsheds, a well, a mill and two olive presses.
In 1711, the Abbey was raided by Turkish pirates; it then fell into a state of complete dereliction until the Province of Lecce entrusted its restoration to architect Franco Minissi in 1965. This restoration gave rise to the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of the Salento Area. In 2012, the Province issued a public contract that led to the Abbey being given over to FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano (the Italian National Trust) on a thirty-year concession.
The Abbey is one of the most significant examples
of Romanesque architecture in Puglia. The portal is
surmounted by an arch with high reliefs of exceptional quality, which
reproduce scenes from the New Testament and also depict a praying monk.
The interior of the building was completely decorated with frescoes, on
which work began in the 13th century, and which are today stored in the
The Church is complemented not only by an arcade but also by the Monks' House, the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, and a building erected in the 16th century, which probably originally served as a cowshed and is now an exhibition space. The Abbey was not only a religious centre but also a productive hub: out of the close links between the Abbey and the surrounding countryside so rich in olive groves, fruit trees and crops, there arose a great deal of agricultural activity, and today we can see the remains of two ancient underground olive oil mills and wells for collecting the oil.
The Abbey of Cerrate is the first FAI Property in the Puglia region. FAI will restore the property and re-open it to the public, equipping it with all of the facilities required to welcome visitors and transforming it into a place to be fully experienced: as such, an ancient jewel will regain its splendour and will once again find its rightful place within the local area.
1. CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DI CERRATE
2. 13TH-CENTURY PORTICO
3. MONKS' HOUSE
4. MUSEUM OF POPULAR ARTS AND TRADITIONS
5. FORMER COWSHED
6. UNDERGROUND OIL MILLS
7. FARM YARD
8. CITRUS GROVE
9. 16TH-CENTURY WELL