It was the year of the Lord 1517. At the first light of a cool spring morning, a light breeze rippled the sea under the western bastion. Coming from Lecce, an old carriage pulled by a breathless horse left behind two rows of silver olive groves the greenhouse of Altolido. He finally managed to cross the wooden bridge and the Porta Terra.
Welcomed by a crowd of believers, three friars of San Domenico disembarked with the task of founding their community in Gallipoli. The friars took possession of the ancient and crude Greek-eastern monastery, the “Magnum Monasterium Sanctae Mariae Servinarum Sancti Basilii”, which had been destroyed during the ruinous siege of Charles II of Anjou. (1284)
The first task of the friars was the reconstruction of the monastery within the urban block, then called San Domenico, which enclosed between via Rosario, via Ferrai and Riviera Nazario Sauro, faces to the end of the walls between the bastion of San Domenico and the large square of the rampart, located a few meters from the bastion of San Francesco.
The friars ,together with the convent, had to erect a more modern church, not in the current dimensions (which date back to 1696-1700), but more suited to the custom and the rite of the Dominican Fathers, of which it was known the particular devotion to the Virgin.
The entrance door to the first floor of the middle and high schools, reserved for internal and external students, was in via Rosario. It still preserves the coat of arms of the Order (dog with torch among the symbols of the Crown of Spain).
The premises were arranged, together with the rectory, priory and refectory, along two long perpendicular corridors with cap vaults, facing south-east on the peristyle cloister.
This had arisen on a base of rock of carparo whose excavation served to find the material necessary for the construction before the convent and then, also with tuffs of Daliano, for the enlargement of the annexed church of San Domenico.
The building, detached to the south-east reserved for the cells for the friars, had the entrance on the coast and included the corner of the Dominican island between via Ferrai and the same coast facing the bastion of San Domenico characteristic for an easy descent to the sea. After the legislative abolition of religious orders all the buildings were confiscated from the state by passing to the administration of the Municipality, the extreme arm opposite the bastion was used as the headquarters of the district prisons, whose prisoners in the summer used to go down to the sea along the scarp created at the corner of the wall and rampart.
All Dominican monasteries in Salento date back to the period between 1500-1600.
The convent of Gallipoli was a place of study for distinguished and qualified masters of excellent theological and philosophical doctrines.
Micetti, an honest and knowledgeable scholar about the history of his homeland, rightly said in his unpublished manuscript: “If virtuous men have been there and are in this city, have they been taught by the Dominican Fathers?”
With Royal Decree 17-02-1861 n. 251 the convent was suppressed just in execution and application, after the unification of Italy, of the Siccardi laws issued by the previous Piedmontese government.
Already in 1864, on the insistent solicitation of the Republican Party and Emanuele Barba, some sections of the elementary schools with kindergarten were opened in the premises used both as a study and as a dormitory of the convent.
The convent was evicted in 1863, the year in which Pietro Maisen from Valtellina (his work dates back to 1870) attested that the building “had been already converted” into elementary schools, Municipal Library, Royal Praetorian Government, Comizio Agrario, home for poor people and pawnshop.