Uncovering the Timeless Beauty of Cartapesta: Exploring the Art of Paper Mache in Lecce and Salento

Cartapesta is an ancient craft that has been practiced for centuries in the Italian city of Lecce and the surrounding region of Salento. This paper mache technique involves the use of a mixture of paper pulp, glue, and plaster to create a variety of objects, from decorative items to masks and religious statues but not only.

The art of cartapesta is said to have originated in Spain and then spread to Italy, where it was adopted and refined by craftsmen in Lecce and Salento. Today, it is still a thriving industry in the region, with many artisans continuing to produce beautiful and intricate pieces using this traditional technique.

Image Credits: Gerhard Huber
Image Credits: Gerhard Huber

One of the most notable examples of cartapesta in Lecce can be found in the city’s historic center, where the Basilica di Santa Croce is located. The façade of this magnificent Baroque church is adorned with a stunning array of cartapesta sculptures, including cherubs, dragons, and other mythical creatures.

In addition to the religious art found in churches and other sacred spaces, cartapesta is also used to create a wide range of decorative objects, such as lamps, vases, and mirrors. Many of these items are sold in local shops and markets, making them a popular souvenir for tourists visiting the region.

Credit image: Sportello dei diritti

Cartapesta is not only an art form but also a symbol of the cultural heritage and traditions of Lecce and Salento. The craftsmanship and attention to detail that go into each piece are a testament to the pride that artisans take in their work and the care they have for preserving their artistic heritage.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in cartapesta, with younger generations taking up the craft and experimenting with new designs and techniques. This has helped to keep the tradition alive and ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come.

Credit image: Giuseppe Jose Ferrara
Credit image: Giuseppe Jose Ferrara

If you’re ever in Lecce or the Salento region, be sure to take the time to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the cartapesta creations that can be found throughout the area. Whether you’re a lover of art, history, or culture, this unique and ancient craft is sure to capture your imagination and leave you with a deep appreciation for the skill and creativity of the artisans who practice it.

In conclusion, cartapesta is a cherished tradition that has been kept alive for centuries in the beautiful region of Lecce and Salento. The art form has survived through generations of artisans who have passed down their knowledge and skills, allowing cartapesta to evolve into a vibrant and evolving craft. Its beauty and intricacy continue to captivate locals and tourists alike, making it a must-see for anyone visiting the region. The preservation of this ancient craft is essential to keeping the rich cultural heritage of Lecce and Salento alive and thriving for future generations to come. By learning about and appreciating cartapesta, we can gain a deeper understanding and respect for the artistry and traditions that have shaped this remarkable region.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *