Day Trip To Visit the Otranto Crypt
We were on the road by 9am to make sure we hit the Cathedral in Otranto before it closed at noon hour. Having finally figured out Lecce roads, we now knew it was much easier to swing around the ring road to head south than to fight our way again across town.
The Blue Waters of Otranto
In less than an hour we arrived in Otranto and found parking where the local fishermen parked (mostly because we missed the turn to park by the Cathedral). Getting out of the car we were amazed to find a beautiful blue bay in front of us, with the fishermen all set up. We stole a few minutes to just take in the view of the clear blue water. It would be a swimming day for us today – even if we had to come back to Otranto later!
Walking along we came to the old stone fortress of the Borgo Antico. We knew this would be the gate to the old town.
Heading along the small cobblestone alleys we hit Via Basilica and figured that would get us to the Cathedral. In the piazza beside the Cattedrale E Cripta we could also see Torre Campanaria with its classic copper bells.
Otranto Cattedrale E Cripta – The Beautiful Church
Even before you entered the main hall of the Cathedral you knew you would be finding the mosaic floors this church was famous for. But we were still not prepared to see wall to wall floor mosaics telling stories.
While the main alter itself was less ornamented, the ceilings and the gilded old organs and priest boxes were quite beautiful.
Throughout the church we found several wall frescos in various states of repair.
Otranto Cattedrale E Cripta – Celebrating the Martys
One side alter was dedicated to the more gruesome past of this town. Three windows were filled with skulls. While there is some debate about the details, the 813 skulls are the Martyrs of Otranto, who were the victims of a mass execution on August 14, 1480 after the Otrantins refused to renounce their Catholic faith and convert to Islam when the city fell to an Ottoman force.
We ventured down the stairs to the crypt not sure what more gruesome sites we might find but instead found a vast expanse of vaulted ceilings, each held up with unique pillars and another good display of restored wall frescos. Two grilled gates led to rooms not open to the public, perhaps to lower depths?
While we only stayed a short time, we liked the feel of this town. It was a beach town of some size, big enough to have lots of places to stay and to eat. And the water looked amazing!
But I had promised David a swim today so off we headed again in search of a swimming hole!
Did you visit the Otranto Crypt when you were in Puglia?