Shrouded in mystery and immersed in the olive groves that cover the area outside the city of Lecce, the origins of the abbey complex can be traced back to Tancred, King of Sicily who, legend has it, was visited here by an apparition of the Virgin Mary. In more concrete terms, the story of Cerrate began under the Norman prince Bohemond I of Antioch who, some time between the 11th and 12th centuries, founded a monastery there of Basilian monks of the Greek Orthodox rite, who turned it into one of the most important hubs for the propagation of culture in southern Italy, thanks to its library and flourishing scriptorium, where the monks would transcribe ancient texts.Over subsequent centuries, the abbey grew in size and prestige, complementing its religious role with farming, but in 1711 an attack by Turkish pirates resulted in it falling into a state of complete abandonment, interrupted only in 1965 by an initial restoration commissioned by the Province of Lecce, which in 2012 entrusted to FAI a new salvage operation geared towards opening the property to the public.
Today, the restoration is ongoing, but this situation does not prevent visits to what is a wonderful example of Puglian Romanesque, embellished with Byzantine 13th-century frescoes and flanked by an elegant 16th-century well and a 13th-century loggia with beautiful capitals sculpted from white Leccese stone – a true masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture. The agricultural vocation of the site, given over to the processing of olives, wheat and tobacco, emerges from the workplaces and from the farmhouse, the stables and the underground mills with their grindstones, presses and tanks. These are all pieces of a complex mosaic to be restored and reconstructed, but already capable of recounting a chapter of the history of the Salento area.
• March, April, May, September, October, from Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
• November, December from Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am - 4 pm
• June, July, August, from Monday to Sunday: 9:30 am - 1pm; 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Special openings on December 24th, 25th and 31st
Last admission: 30 minutes before closure
Mass times on Sundays:
• March, April, May, September, October: 6 pm
• June, July, August: 7.30 pm
• November, December: 4 pm
Free admission to the Church during the Mass
From Lecce on the SS 613 (Lecce-Brindisi) highway, take the Squinzano exit and head towards Casalabate on the SP 100 road.
From the A14 Bari-Taranto Motorway (“Autostrada A14 Bari-Taranto”), take the SS16 / E55 roads for Brindisi.
From Brindisi on the SS 613 (Brindisi-Lecce) highway, take the Squinzano exit and head for Casalabate on the SP 100 road.
Parking is available near the abbey.
*with the exception of specific events, when only the additional event charge will apply.
During events the price may be subject to change.
Disabled visitors can access free-of-charge those FAI properties that are open to the public by showing their ANMIC (Associazione Nazionale Mutilati e Invalidi Civili) card.
Various spaces are accessible: the church, the ground floor of the farmhouse and the loggia on the first floor of the monks’ house.
The abbey offers an extensive array of spaces for M.I.C.E. and private events.
By selecting a FAI property as a venue for your event, you are contributing to the conservation and protection of Italy’s heritage of art and nature.
What can you do at the Abbey of Santa Maria di Cerrate?
Wedding receptions, concerts, expos, banquets, exhibitions, conferences
Corporate away days
Meetings and team-building activities.
The abbey is the ideal backdrop for photo and film shoots set in rural or monastic Salento.
Abbazia di Cerrate
Tel. (+39) 0832 361176