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The early Renaissance Franciscan Basilica di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria was erected on the orders of Raimondello Orsini del Balzo starting in 1383, and finished after his death in 1405  by his wife and son.  The Orsini family owned Galatina (amongst other places) and Raimondello had at one stage travelled to the Monastery of S Catherine at Mt Sinai.  Before leaving, so the story goes, he reverently kissed the hand of the dead saint, biting off  and mouthing one of her fingers at the same time.  The finger is still preserved in a reliquary in the Basilica.  Sadly we cannot show you a photo or postcard as the museum and frescoed cloisters and bookshop were all closed, despite the notice claiming that everything is open from 8.00 - 12.30 and again from 16.30 - 18.45.


The main reason to be here was to see the interior of the Basilica and convent's cloisters (on the north side of the church), which are both covered in narrative frescos - the first time we have encountered this in the south of Italy.  Sadly it transpired that not only was it not possible to get a book or even postcards, or get into the museum and cloisters, but photos were not allowed either ... luckily the Dom had accidentally snapped a few before being disciplined by an dour middle aged woman, who was unsympathetic to the problem of not being able to get printed material, get into the cloisters, etc and was unbending in the application of "the rule" - popping out from behind the pillars etc from then on to make sure no further sin was being committed - which is also why the two Orsini tombs in the Basilica do not make an appearance here, and neither do any shots of the many interesting capitals.  Very unfranciscan and such a contrast to the friendly and helpful southern church officials met elsewhere on this journey.



The Dom has become used to a large white van being parked in front of almost every building he wants to photograph in Italy, but this was a first for a JCB back hoe.  Never mind, the hawker's barrow provided some aesthetic balance.


The main nave 
Frescos on the (almost) barrel vaulted ceiling of the south aisle. 

Detail of scenes from the life of Mary, on the ceiling of the south aisle. 

Annunciation - detail from the "life of Mary" fresco cycle

Adam and Eve doing their serpent thing and being cast out on the north wall of the nave

A well fed Adam and Eve - detail from the north side of the nave.

Saint George stars whilst the Archangel Michele plays a bit part - or maybe they are both Michele?

Tantalizing little bits and pieces were also exposed during the presumably recent restorations

Just to complete the picture, on the north boundary of the Franciscan convent is the town hall, aka Palazzo Orsini (with, you will note, white van).


Actually it was a hospital built by Raimondello at the same time as the convent and church.  Presumably the Franciscans were not into hospitals, because this one was run by the Observant Minorities Order of the Bosnian Vicariate for a hundred years, then by Olivetian monks from Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Tuscany.  It was richly endowed with fiefs, which caused a lot of money disputes between the Olivetians and their next door neighbours the Franciscans.  Thought you would like to know all that!


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