Church of Saint Irene (Chiesa di Sant'Irene)
Lecce’s Chiesa di Sant'Irene was built between 1591 and 1639 for the Theatine religious order and is dedicated to one of the city’s patron saints, whose statue adorns the facade beneath a sculpted she-wolf and oak tree representing the city of Lecce. Artwork worth noting inside the church includes a number of beautiful 17th-century altarpieces in the church’s many side chapels. The Chiesa di Sant'Irene is located near the Duomo and the Basilica di Santa Croce, two other baroque treasures in the city center, and is included in many Lecce walking tours. This historic city is also known for its local dishes, so gourmands can opt for a tour that pairs culture and cuisine with food and wine tastings.
Things to know before you go
- To capture the intricacies of Lecce’s baroque architecture, be sure to bring a camera with an excellent telephoto lens.
- You must wear attire that covers your shoulders and knees to enter this and other churches in Lecce.
- There is a short flight of steps at the entrance to the church, making it inaccessible to wheelchairs and strollers
- Not all walking tours that stop at the Chiesa di Sant’Irene include a visit to the church’s interiors, so check in advance.
- The 17th-century monastery adjacent to the church is currently used as a venue for exhibitions and events; enquire at the tourist information office for a schedule.
How to get there
The Church of Saint Irene (Chiesa di Sant'Irene) is in Lecce’s old town (centro storico), a short walk from the city’s main Piazza Sant'Oronzo and train station. Lecce is the most important city on Puglia’s Salento Peninsula, and a major rail, bus, and highway hub; the closest airport and cruise terminal are in Brindisi, 25 miles (40 km) to the north.
When to get there
Sant’Irene, like most of Lecce’s historic churches, provides a cool respite during the hottest midday hours in the summer months. Lecce honors its three patron saints each year on August 23, 24, and 25 with light displays, concerts, and processions. Visit during this period to experience the city at its most vibrant.
Baroque Architecture in Lecce
Lecce’s baroque architecture is so spectacular that the city is known as “The Florence of the South”. In addition to the Church of Saint Irene, the Cathedral (Duomo), Basilica of Santa Croce (Basilica di Santa Croce), and Church of Santa Chiara (Chiesa di Santa Chiara) are Lecce’s most famous 17th-century architectural treasures.