Church of St. Paul the Hermit

Vico De' Vavotici 8, 72100 Brindisi BR

Saint Paul’s Church and Convent Today the architectural arrangement of St Paul’s convent is entirely accessible by entering the Province Palace, even if deeply modified. In fact, from time to time the original ancient structure from the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries emerges, like in the single and twin lancet windows on the side of the church. The foundation of the church can be traced to the notarial act of the 2nd of March, 1284, which is kept in Naples State Archive. In this document King Charles I of Anjou donated the area of the Mint to the Franciscan priests for them to build their convent and their church, whose construction lasted until 1322. The historian from Brindisi, Andrea Della Monaca, reports that the date of the foundation was engraved in one of the beams, near the Porta Maggiore. The church is infused by the Franciscan style: it has a single aisle, a slender apse, and large walls, that were originally covered with frescoes representing the procession of the saints and scenes of Christian piety, with long and narrow windows. Little is left of the ancient structure due to the evolution of artistic taste and the renovations. For example, they covered the frescos on the wall (The Tree of the Cross, Saints and Mary with the Child on the wall by the choir, Acts of Mercy, Saints, Mary Magdalene’s Stories, Courtly Scenes, Saint Stephen) with baroque altars carved in local stone; moreover, at the beginning of the sixteenth century they substituted the original roof, decorated with lilies, with the current trussed roof, leaving only few traces of the previous one. Because of the constant risk of collapse of the façade between 1825 and 1826, the front was moved rearward for a total of eight meters, removing the first bay and two altars. The main door is surmounted by a prothyrum with cusps, while the archivolt and the architrave contain classic floral decorations. In 1809 the convent was suppressed and the in 1813 it became a royal gendarmerie and a detention centre. After the restoration, in 1828 Mons. Pietro Consiglio, Brindisi’s archbishop (1826-1839), gave the building to the Confraternity of Mary Immaculate. Inside the church there is a gothic niche decorated with a fresco representing the Virgin Mary and Saint John under the Cross, of which we only have a few traces remaining on the dark background, while on the corresponding cusp there are two flying angels holding a round picture. The altars are dedicated to Saint Joseph from Copertino, Saint Anthony from Padua (1632), the Virgin Mary (1603), to Jesus on the Holy Cross, to the Immaculate Virgin Mary (1741), to the Saints Vito, Modesto and Crescenza; this last altar has been created by the sculptures from Lecce Agostino de Matteis and Pietro Spongano. There are also paintings with Our Lady of the Carmine with the Saints Catherine, Paul the Anchorite, Diego attributed to Alessandro Fracanzano; a painting representing the Perez Noguerol family, painted in 1603; the pictures of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Joseph's Passage, the Annunciation, Our Lady of Concord from the beginning of the XVII century, the Visitation from the year 1559, original work by Jacopo de Vanis, a painter from Brindisi. This last work is located on an altar that had been demolished in 1900 to build a pulpit, which was later taken down during the restorations in 1964. In Saint Francis’s chapel there is Obbedienzo Vavotico’s sepulchral monument from 1699, commissioned by Giovanni Maria Moricino (1558-1628), a historian from Brindisi. In the church, there is also a macenula, a statue of the Immaculate Virgin that throughout the year is displayed with four different dresses decorated with precious embroideries. The statue is also called Our Lady of the Earthquake for having saved Brindisi from an earthquake on the 20th of February, 1743.

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