San Lorenzo and Sant'Eustorgio, Milan
San Lorenzo alle Colonne was the last church I visited in the end of a long day of sightseeing. My mom was so tired that she stayed in a café, while I walked here on my own.
San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches in Milan, it is believed that it incorporates the original chapel of the Roman Imperial Residence. When it was built in the 4th century, material from the nearby Roman amphitheater was used. Even to me, not knowing so much about architecture, it was obvious that this church is different to other churches I had seen in Milan. The style is not like the Lombard one, but rather Roman, with a central, round room in the middle of the church, and a high cupola. It is rather like a basilica.
The church was substantially renovated in the 11th, 12th and 16th century, but its main characteristics were never changed.
I visited quite late in the day, and unfortunately I was not able to see some of the most interesting things this church has to offer: The Capella di Sant' Aquilino has mosaics from the 5th century and as far as I have heard and read, they are just amazing. Unfortunately, the chapel was closed when I came here. In picture 4 you can see the entrance to the chapel, I was able to catch a glimpse of the frescoes when I looked through the door.
There were some people praying in the church very loudly and absorbed, so I did not walk around a lot and did not take many pictures - I did not want to disturb them. Moreover, there were two dubious men walking around and following me, I am sure they were not tourists and it did feel very strange. When I left the church, they left, too, but they lingered on the steps of the entrance smoking a cigarette and, as I guess, waiting for other tourists? They were not really scary, but I wanted to tell this here as a remainder that pickpockets and other shady characters even occur in churches... Fortunately I had read about this on VT, and so I was not too surprised.
Although I was on my guard, I enjoyed walking around at least a little. As I said, the architecture was so different to what I had seen so far on my trip to Milan, so it was very interesting. There were also some great frescoes and paintings.
San Lorenzo definitely is a church I want to visit again when I come back to Milan one day, earlier in the day when the experience will hopefully be better :-)
In front of San Lorenzo alle Colonne, there are the very columns that are included in the name of the church. There are sixteen corinthian columns which date back to the 2nd or 3rd century. They were part of a Roman temple about which there is not much known today, and were brought to this place in the 4th century. It might also be that they belonged to a bath and not a temple.
The long row of columns in the midst of the hustle bustle of the street was an interesting and impressive sight. However, I did not spend a lot of time here because it felt rather uncomfortable, there were several hawkers and other people looking not too friendly, so I only had a quick look, took a few pictures and walked away.
Close to the columns, in front of the church, there is a statue of Emperor Constantine. It is a copy of an original Roman statue. Constantine was the one who stopped the persecution of Christians within the Roman Empire, in the Edict of Milan in 313A.D.
Seeing this statue made me realize how big the Roman Empire really was: Only three weeks earlier, I had been standing in front of another statue of Constantine, at York Cathedral - York was where he had been proclaimed Emperor after his father's death. It felt unbelievable to be so far from York now - about 2000km - and yet to be looking at a statue of exactly the same man, connected to the history of both places!
Leonardo da Vinci thought this church to be the most beautiful in Mialn. i'm not sure I agree, but it is very lovely.
St Ambrose founded 4 churches in the city during the 300s, and this is one of them. It was partially constructed using the remnants of Roman masonry throughout the city...including the rather random row of Roman columns which stand outside the church and give it its name. They've been there since the 300s...imagine!
The building you can visit now is a 16th-century reconstruction of the 11th-century version. It's octagonal inside, and really rather lovely. See if you can spot the inverted roman column, its capital now serving as its base...a deliberate symbol of the power Christianity held over earthly authorities.
But the highlight for me was the Cappella di San Aquilino, to the side of the main church interior. You have to pay to visit (2 euro) but it is most definitely worthwhile. Probably originally built as an Imperial mausoleum its niches and arches contain the remains of beautiful 4th-century mosaics. Such things are not commonplace, so pay your 2 euro and visit them.
And whilst you are visiting the Cappella do go down the steps behind the relics of San Aquilino to see the original Roman foundations.
To the rear of San Lorenzo is the Piazza del Vetra, where public executions occurred until the 1500s. From there you can clearly see the mish-mash of building styles and sections which make up San Lorenzo.
Highly recommended...but be aware that, like many in Milan, the church will probably be closed during the early afternoon (roughly 12-3).
Sant'Eustorgio is another originally 4th-century church, supposedly housing the bones of the Magi (the 'Wide Men' of the Nativity story) which St Ambrose brought to Milan.
The church was rebuilt in the 1000s, and then almost destroyed in the 1100s by Barbarossa, who stole the bones and took them to cologne. Some were later returned, and are kept in a truly enormous stone sarcophagus inside the church (see photos).
It's a pleasant church, and the sarcophagus is amazing, but to see the Portinari Chapel (and other things) you have to go next door to a separate entrance and pay 6 euro to enter the Basilica museum. See tip below....
Unlike the church of San'Eustorgio, the museum is open all through the day. It's the only way to visit the Portinari chapel and you will pay 6 euro for entrance (2011).
The museum is partially housed in what was once the Dominican monastery associated with the church.
Just after the entrance desk, on the left, you'll see some steps...do go down them, for they lead to an excavated area of ancient Christian tombs. As well as showing tombs of various different types this little area is particularly interesting for the various grave inscriptions (translated into English) displayed on its walls. Such things help one to get in touch with real people who really lived in the past.....
Then on through the Medieval monastery Chapter House with its rather lovely stone statue of St Eugenio, dating from the 1200s and still wit some of its original colouring. On through the Sacristy, full of silver relic containers and church artefacts before reaching 3 chapels: the St Paul's/Annunciation/Saachi chapel (frescoes from 1620), the Chapel of St Francis (with a 13th-century fresco) and the Portinarui chapel itself.
Built between 1462 and 1468 for the Florentine banker Pigello Portinari, it has lovely frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa showing scenes from the lives of St Peter and the Virgin Mary. The tomb within, beautifully sculpted by di Balduccio in 1388, houses the remains of St Peter the Martyr.
It's a pretty place, and one worth visiting (although if you are not interested in the ancient Christian excavation as well then perhaps 6 euro is a bit steep? ) I especially liked the multi-coloured 'scales' painted within the dome of the Portinari Chapel.
The columns which can be found today in front of San Lorenzo church are dating from 2nd-3rd centuries and are remains of a pagan temple which once stood on that site.
The columns are 8.5 m high and are of Corinthian style.
On both sides the columns row are finished by an arch, out of which the southern one is contemporary.
San Lorenzo dates from the 4th century and stones from a nearby Roman amphitheatre were used in the construction. It has been rebuilt after fires, but a large part of the walls and three of the chapels are from the 4th century. The dome, which is the largest in Milan, was rebuilt in 1573, after it had collapsed. Attached to the main building are other buildings from different periods.
I didn’t visit Cappella de Sant’ Aquilino and now I regret it as it contains some very fine mosaics, and I love mosaics. Admission to the chapel was 2 Euro (February 2009) and it was closed as I arrived, but soon a man came and asked if I wanted to see the chapel. Then I said no and continued my tour of the church.
The church is open between 8.30 - 12.30 and 14.30 - 18.30.
From the first moment I saw it, Sant'Eustorgio became one of my favorite sites in Milan.
Commissioned by Bishop Eustorgio II in 515 the church was almost completely damaged in 1164 by Frederik Barbarossa. He was also the one who took the Roman sarcophagus supposed to contain the relics of three Magi to Cologne.
The reconstruction works started in 1190 and last several centuries.
The typical Lombard bell tower was built between 1297 and 1309 and in the 15th century was added the beautiful Renaissance style Portinari Chapel.
Beaside this other beautiful chapels can be found in the church: Brivio with the tombs of Giacomo Stefano Brivio, Torelli Chapel with the Gothic arc on twisted columns used as Pietro Torelli's sepulcher or Visconti Chapel with the tomb of Stefano Visconti, a gothic masterpiece by Giovanni di Balduccio.
The beautiful marble altar, although unfinished, is decorated with scenes of Passion of Christ.
San Lorenzo Basilica was built between the end of 4th century and the beginning of the 5th century using materials from the close by Roman theater.
It is said that the project of the church has its origins in Byzantium and the features of the oriental art can be seen inside.
One of the most beautiful chapel of the church is Sant’Aquilino Chapel with its mosaic presenting the Christ surrounded by the Apostles, one of the finest examples of the paleochristian art from northern Italy.
A pure example of the Renaissance style, Cappella Portinari (Portinari Chapel) was commissioned by Pigello Portinari in 1462 and finished in the year of his death 1468.
Vincenzo Foppa's wonderful frescoes high up on the walls, were discovered in 1878 and restored at the beginning 20th century.
In the center of the chapel, stands the famous tomb of St. Peter Martyr, built by Giovanni di Balduccio, a follower of the great Pisan Innovator, Giovanni Pisano, between 1336 and 1339.
The tomb, which in 1734 was moved from the left nave of the Basilica to the Portinari Chapel, is made of a white marble urn supported by eight statues of Virtues resting on them.
The bas-relief decorations present scenes from life of St. Peter Martyr.
The sixteen columns of the 2nd century AD still standing in front of the basilica of San Lorenzo are the most important Roman remains in Milan.
They were part of a temple (or perhaps even a public baths complex), and were transported here in the 4th century AD to form the front side of a four-sided portico.
Opposite Basilica San Lorenzo are 16 Corinthian columns standing in a row. They date from the 2nd or 3rd century and were part of a hedonic temple built by the Romans. They have been moved and were places in their present location already in the 4th century. The columns are 8,5 metres high.
The foundations of the Basilica San Lorenzo make it possibly the oldest surviving building in Milan. There's little left of the significant Roman presence in the city, which made Milan one of the foremost cities outside Rome at the time, but outside the Basilica is a row of Corinthian columns, the last vestiges of a third century Roman temple. The rest of the buildings that form part of the Basilica were constructed or reconstructed at various times over the last two millennia.
The Portinari Chapel was built between 1460 and 1468. Building of that chapel was commissioned and financed by Pigello Portinari the representative of Florentine bank of Medici in Milan. It was the very wise decision because the chapel became the mausoleum of Saint Peter the Martyr or Saint Peter of Verona. That man was born in the family of Lombardian Cathar Heretics. The sermon of Dominique Guzman or future Saint Dominique converted Peter to Catholicism and he joined the Black Friars or Order of Dominicans. Since they run the Office of Holy Inquisition, Peter became the Inquisitor General of Northern Italy in 1234. It was very unpopular and sometime dangerous profession that’s why on April 6, 1252 two assassins hired by the Milanese Cathars killed Peter and his companion monk brother Dominic. Next year Pope Innocent IV canonized Peter and Saint Peter the Martyr become protector of inquisitors. That luxurious tomb of Saint Peter the Inquisitor was made by the famous Giovanni Balduccio in 1336. And frescoes were painted by Vincenzo Foppa in second part of XV century. I believe Signor Portinari was the very wise man because it was better to be among the friends of inquisition. Whatever motives and reasons but we have the real masterpiece today.
To visit that chapel you required to buy a ticket to museum.
Non commercial photo without flash light and tripod is allowed.
Tue to Sun: 10.00-18.00
The ticket office closes at 17.30
MON: Closed (Except Public Holidays)
Tuesday: € 4.00
Full price: € 8.00
reduced : € 5.00
This is a fascinating church with a mystery of a history. It has stood in its spot for around 1,600 years but no one is really sure who built it and for what purpose. Its sheer size and location, said to have been close to an Imperial palace, indicated that it was constructed for more than than purely public, ecclesiastical use. It was also outside of the city walls - where Romans of that period buried their dead - and inclusion of adjoining/freestanding structures of designs associated with funerary purposes point to possible origins as an Imperial mausoleum.
What is clear is that even though it was extensively overhauled several times, the main outline of its 4th-century footprint remains. This is an aisled tetraconch church, meaning it's roughly in the shape of a circle with apses that bulged from four sides, and an inner ring of pillars that creates an continuous ambulatory. You can see the original floor plan here:
It was also partially constructed from materials lifted from a Roman amphitheater - a part of which can be seen underneath the church’s foundation. Outside, a colonnade of pillars looted from some long-gone pre-Christian pile mark the front of what was once a roofed, 4-sided portico.
The interior originally would have been encrusted with fabulous mosaics - long gone due to rebuilding after several fires - but is now mostly bare stone with some scraps of later fresco work here and there including a 16th-century rip-off (and not a good one) of Da Vinci’s “Last supper.” A couple of euros gets you into a 4th-century chapel that was almost certainly meant as a burial chamber and contains a sarcophagus that may or may nor be occupied. Around the walls and niches are fragments of 12th and 14-century frescoes and what little remains of those ancient mosaics which would have brightly illuminated now-darkened spaces. Here also is the crystal reliquary of St. Aquilino, for whom the chapel is named, and a stairway that leads down to a bit of that Roman rubble which lies underneath.
You can take a little 360-degree tour of the central sanctuary here:
Entrance (except for the St. Aquilino chapel) is free.
Monday/Friday/Sat: 7:30 AM - 6:30 PM
Tues/Wed/Thursday: 7:30 - 12:30 and 2:30 - 6:30 PM
Sunday: 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM