The origins of this city, capital of its province, are very ancient and often mixed with legend: Sybar the Messapico town on which Lecce was built seems to be older than the Trojan war. After the advent of the Japigi and with the 3rd century BC Roman conquest, Lecce obtained the status of municipium, took the name of Lupiae and witnessed a period of splendour under the guidance of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. After a short Greek domination, it was sacked by the Ostrogoths and was annexed in 549 to the Eastern Roman Empire where it remained for 5 centuries. It was under the Norman domination that Lecce became an important trading centre and assumed the role of capital of the Salento. In 1493 Lecce became part of the Kingdom of Naples and became the liveliest cultural centre of the Mediterranean giving life to its own architectural style, which later became known as Lecce Baroque. In later centuries, to protect against possible Turkish invasions, under the reign of Charles V, walls and a castle were built around the city. Next churches and aristocratic dwelling were constructed turning the city into an open air construction site. In 1656 Lecce was hit with a plague epidemic which ended thanks to the miraculous intercession of St. Horace, who later became the patron saint of the city. The expansion of the city beyond its walls took place in the first years of the 1900’s.
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