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Diocese of Lecce
Diocese; suffragan of Otranto. Lecce, the capital of a province in Terra d'Otranto in Apulia, seven and a half miles from the sea, is an industrial and commercial city (tobacco, grain, wine, oil, woven goods). Marble quarries are in the vicinity. Extensive ruins of megalithic structures in its territory prove that it was inhabited at a very remote period. It was known to the ancients as Lupiæ, and then had a port, enlarged by Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. Near Lecce is the village of Rugge, the ancient Rudiæ, birthplace of Ennius. In the time of the Normans, Lecce became the seat of a countship, some of its counts being famous, notably Tancred (d. 1194), who contested with Henry VI the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and Gautier de Brienne, cousin of Tancred. Under Charles V, to whom a triumphal arch was erected in the city, Lecce received new life, and the features of that epoch are retained to this day. For this reason Lecce is one of those cities that have preserved a characteristic and uniform style of architecture. Of the more ancient buildings there remains only the church of SS. Nicola and Cataldo, outside the city, in Romanesque style (1180). The cathedral of S. Oronzio (first built in 1114 by Goffredo d'Altavilla), in its present form, and the church of S. Domenico are of the seventeenth century, S. Croce of the sixteenth-all in baroque style. The cathedral tower is about 240 feet high, and serves yet as a lighthouse for ships plying between Otranto and Brindisi. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a signal on its summit to give warning of pirate ships. The Palazzo della Intendenza, once the abbey of the Celestines, is noteworthy. Mention must also be made of the manufacture of tobacco in the ancient Dominican convent. The historian Scipione Ammirati and the painter Matteo da Lecce (sixteenth century) were natives of Lecce. The Christian religion, it is said, was first introduced by St. Orontius, a Pythagorean philosopher converted by St. Paul. St. Leucius is also venerated as bishop and martyr. But a bishop of Lecce is first mentioned in 1057, in the person of Teodoro Bonsecolo. Other bishops of note were Roberto Vultorico (1214), who restored the cathedral; Tommaso Ammirati (1429); Ugolino Martelli (1511), a linguist; Giambattista Castromediani (1544), who founded the hospital and other institutions for children and the poor; Luigi Pappacoda (1639), who rebuilt the cathedral, which contains his statue in marble; Antonio Pignatelli (1672), later Innocent XII, who founded the seminary of Lecce.
The diocese has 32 parishes with 100,000 souls, 8 religious houses of men and 16 of women, 10 schools for boys, and 6 for girls.
DE SIMONE, Lecce e i suoi dintorni (Lecce, 1874); CAPPELLETTI, Le Chiese d'Italia, XXI.