Basilica di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria


Most people come to Galatina to see the incredible 14th-century Basilica di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria. Its interior is a kaleidoscope of frescoes and is absolutely beautiful, with a pure-white altarpiece set against the frenzy of frescoes. It was built by the Franciscans, whose patron was Frenchwoman Marie d’Enghien de Brienne.

Married to Raimondello Orsini del Balzo, the Salentine’s wealthiest noble, Marie had plenty of cash to splash on interior decoration. The gruesome story goes that Raimondello (who is buried here) climbed Mt Sinai to visit relics of Santa Caterina (St Catherine). Kissing the dead saint’s hand, he bit off a finger and brought it back as a holy relic.

It is not clear who the artists Marie employed really were; they could have been itinerant painters down from Le Marche and Emilia or southerners who'd absorbed the latest Renaissance innovations on trips north. Bring a torch.

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