Duomo di San Matteo

July 22, 2010 / Art & Archaeology
Salerno, Campania
duomosanmatteo1The duomo (literally “dome”, but meaning “cathedral”) at Salerno is rich in architectural delights. It is dedicated to Mary of the Angels and to San Matteo (Saint Matthew), whose remains arrived in Salerno in 954. Built on the site of a Roman temple, the church’s atrium has numerous Roman sarcophagi re-used for Christian burials. 28 columns, in their turn recycled from the local Roman Forum, support a colonnade that is unmistakeably Moorish in style.

Many elements of the church are Romanesque, dating back to the 11th century when Robert Guiscard ordered its construction. Visitors enter by a bronze door, forged in Constantinople in 1099 and once completely covered in gold and silver leaf. It shone so brightly Medieval worshippers talked of entering Il Paradiso.

duomosanmatteo3Guarding the doorway are a lion and lioness, representing strength and charity. A local legend says that during a Saracen invasion these lions sprang to life and devoured the invading pirates, although today they seem too dentally challenged to pose much of a threat.

Rising 52 metres above the duomo is a mid 12th century Moorish/Norman bell tower. Fast forward a few hundred years and a substantial remodelling so that baroque and rococo styles are represented too. The duomo is both a pattern book for architecture and a refreshingly calm place to visit.

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Penny Ewles-Bergeron

by Penny Ewles-Bergeron

Writer, artist, … celebrating the many good things in Naples.

8 Responses to “Duomo di San Matteo”

  1. Gian Banchero

    Unlike modern architecture that seemingly spells the vision of only one architect the above buildings are not only the work of many an artist but also a diary of a community’s history. They were built at a time when people were expected to sit and study buildings, much unlike the works of today that are to be “appreciated” from a car, freeway, bus or by someone who is hurried, I call much of modern architecture “zoom by.” The architects of times past designed buildings well knowing they’d be approached either by foot or by horse thus allowing for buildings to visually “unfold” and bring wonder to the sensed as they came into view.
    Thank you very much Penny, beautiful photographs!!!!

    Reply
  2. Gian Banchero

    Pardon me but I should have written “senses” to my above contribution (near the end). —G.B.

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  3. Linda DiCrescenzo

    Gian Banchero, Thank you for your contribution, explanation of architecture of the past. It added another dimension to the entry by Penny.

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  4. MIRIAM

    I CANNOT THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR INFO ON ALL THE ARCHITECTURES ,HISTORY OF MY BEAUTIFUL ITALIA , NEVER BORED JUST OVERWHELMING OF SO MUCH HISTORY AND WONDERS OF OUR HISTORY AND ANCESTORS, GRAZIE MILLE MIRIAM

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  5. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks. This building does have that wonderful organic feel as various historic contributions and cultural accretions ‘grew’ the structure we see today. It makes it especially rewarding for the visitor who can return many times. A further note on the extraordinary crypt will follow.

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  6. Giulia

    Wonderful note but allow me to correct the author on the origins of the word ‘duomo.’ Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean ‘dome.’ Dome, in italian, is cupola. Duomo comes from the corruption of two Latin words: ‘domus’ (house) + ‘dei’ (god). House of god, through the centuries, became ‘duomo.’

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  7. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Hi Giulia, this definition arrived post-composition, so to speak!

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