Cathedral Salerno

Salerno Cathedral

Duomo San Matteo • Old Town

The Duomo of S. Matteo or Cathedral is in the heart of Salerno, located at the center of the triangle, which defines the plan of the historic city, which sees at the upper vertex, on top of the Bonadies hill, the Arechi Castle and at the lower vertexes the Church of the Annunziata and Porta Nova.

The cathedral which dominates the square dedicated to Alfano, was founded following the conquest of Salerno by the Norman armies of Robert Guiscard and was consecrated in 1084 by Pope Gregory VII, who took refuge in Salerno to escape the attacks of Emperor Henry IV.

The cathedral today shows a set of elements that recall its evolution, from Romanesque to Baroque, passing through Lombard, Byzantine, Norman and Renaissance.

The current appearance is due to the baroque renovation started after the earthquake of 1688. Going up a double flight of stairs, set against a neoclassical style façade, you arrive at the entrance, welcomed by the sculptures of the lion and the lioness.

The Lion’s Gate opens onto an atrium with a quadriportico with 28 bare columns and raised round arches of Islamic character, on whose lateral and southern arms a loggia with mullioned and five-lancet windows is raised. Roman sarcophagi reused in medieval times, tombstones, erratic pieces walled into the walls and frescoes enrich the portico, which closes on the southern side with a monumental Norman bell tower, built by Archbishop Guglielmo da Ravenna between 1137 and 1152.

A medieval marble portal with a Byzantine bronze door gives the main access to the upper basilica with three longitudinal naves and three apses, in which the total eighteenth-century renovation is evident. The most interesting part is the choir area, which leads into the presbytery and is preceded by two monumental ambos. These are two masterpieces of medieval art, built and decorated between the 12th and 13th centuries. The sculptures that adorn them are particularly beautiful.

Another artistic jewel is the Funeral Monument of Queen Margherita of Durazzo, a fascinating example of late Gothic sculpture, dating back to the early 1400s and created by Antonio Baboccio of Piperno.

From the basilica you descend into the splendid hall crypt. It was the first body built, although its current appearance is due to the works carried out in the seventeenth century based on a design by the architects Domenico and Giulio Fontana. The space is organized around the famous two-faced statue of San Matteo, created by Michelangelo Naccherino (1606) and erected above the tomb of the patron saint with a double altar. On the vault we find frescoes by Belisario Corenzio (1611) with sacred scenes from the life of Jesus. The central apse of the crypt was the chapel of the Salerno Medical School, of which the eighteenth-century marble altar remains.

Inside the Cathedral, accessible from the street level to the right of the entrance, there are the two chapels of Santa Caterina. Both chapels were used for teaching between the 12th and 13th centuries and are considered among the most prestigious locations of the Salerno Medical School. The lower chapel, variously decorated in the two naves divided by pillars, is known as Sala San Lazzaro. The upper chapel is, however, known as the Sala S. Tommaso, since St. Thomas Aquinas taught theology here between 1259 and 1273.

Getting There