Postcard from Lecce, Italy: Frolicking putti, Solomonic columns and saintly relics

she-wolf on facade of chiesa di sant'irene in lecce

She-Wolf and Oak Tree, Symbols of Lecce, on the Façade of the Church of Saint Irene

Baroque churches of Lecce are filled with putti frolicking amidst birds and pomegranates, twisting Solomonic columns covered with intricate lacelike carvings, images of saints and some of their bones.


Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Clouds of incense fill Church of the Patriarch

Swirling clouds of incense blurred the ceiling frescoes and dome of the Church of the Patriarch when we finally managed to coordinate our arrival as a mass ended. The church is associated with a seminary still active, and the monks residing there are known for their daily Gregorian chants, which we missed.

The church and cloisters were founded by San Juan de Ribera in the XVI century. Juan de Ribera was born in Seville in 1532 and educated in Salamanca. He became archbishop of Valencia, leading to his establishment of the Royal Seminary.

Today a large portion of the cloisters is filled with a rich collection of art, including work by Valencian-born Renaissance painter, Juan de Juanes  (1523-1579) (love that name).

One of my favorite things about the church and chapel is the juxtaposition of cheerful bright tilework with the serious religious frescoes, accented by a sprinkling of chubby cherubs. And, of course, Saint Anthony, the patron saint of our hometown, seems to follow us everywhere we travel.

Postcard from Salamanca, Spain: Stonemasons’ soaring work pays homage to patron saint

Saint Stephen earned the honor of serving as the patron saint of stonemasons the hard way. An early convert from Judaism to Christianity, Stephen traditionally is regarded as the first of the faithful to be martyred for his beliefs in the Holy Trinity. He was stoned to death for his alleged blasphemy, so he often is depicted bearing a trinity of stones.

But the stonemasons constructing the Dominican church and adjoining cloisters in Salamanca over a century or two beginning in the 1500s created a monumental tribute to their patron saint. His massive church stretches 275 feet in length and rises more than half that high at the transept. Primarily Gothic on the interior, the church’s façade reflects the Plateresque detailing in vogue at the time of its completion.

And, given that we are always on the lookout for our hometown saint…. Alas, an ancient statue of Saint Anthony has lost something major. While Baby Jesus rests safely in Saint Anthony’s hands on the façade of the church, inside he is missing. We don’t know how many hundreds of years ago the kidnapping occurred, but the shadow of the statue of the empty-handed patron saint of misplaced or stolen items seems attempting to follow the advice of the children’s chant imploring: “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, turn around. I’ve lost something that can’t be found….”