Milano, Basilica Saint Ambrose

Virtual tourVirtual tour
MappaMilano, Basilica Saint Ambrose

Proto-category of the Lombardy Romanesque churches the "Basilica Martyrum", founded in the 4th cent.(between the year 379 and 386) by Saint Ambrose, patron saint of Milan, at first sight simple and unitary, inreality underwent numerous re-adaptations the first of which towards the end of the 8th cent., by work of the Benedictine monks. Further interventions were made towards the 9th and 11th cent. with the addition of a cloister for priests by Bramante commissioned by Ludovico the Moor.
Most evocative is the front entrance reached through the massive wall of the quadriporticus (four porticos) atrium. Along the walls of the atrium remnants are located that were found during the restoration of the last century. Of interest are the sculptures and friezes of capitals, of the arcades and of the portals along the narthex (bottom loggia from where the portals open) and along the very façade of the church. In the interior, typical of the 11th and 12th cent. are the women's galleries. Also of great iconographic interest are the capitals (13th cent.), especially those of the minor pilasters: works of Lombard stone-masons, show vegetable motifs and symbolic animals.
Works. The pulpit is a virtual anthology of sculptures in marble and metal of different eras, all precedent to 1196 and rests on a magnificent early Christian sarcophagus decorated with historical scenes of the 4th cent. On the front part of the pulpit one can admire an embossed and decorated eagle and human figure in copper, almost certainly of the Carolingian age. At the height of the second left arch span, on top of a Roman marble column, a large twisting and quivering bronze serpent is fixed. Kept in the basilica since the year 1002, it refers to the biblical story of the bronze serpent raised high by Moses in the Sinai desert. The upper part of the pointed tabernacle that overlooks the altar presents reliefs in golden stucco on walls painted in blue, datable between the 9th and 10th cent.. It is one of the most interesting works of the Carolingian-Ottoman epoch in Italy. The antependium, that covers the main altar, is one of the most incredible creations of goldsmith art in the world. Conceived by Mastro Volvinio (9th cent.), it consists of a great wooden casket covered by layers of gold and golden silver, embossed and engraved, set with gems, pearls and cameos. The chorus, the crypt, (9th cent.) the small chapel with the urn in silver and crystal containing the remains of Saint Ambrose are the most ancient parts of the reconstructed basilica (7th cent.). At the centre of the chorus leaning against the wall is the marble Bishop's cathedral of the 9th-10th cent. with the marble seat where Saint Ambrose sat in the 4th cent.. In the apse that concludes the right nave an early Christian sarcophagus is placed of immense value.
The small chapel of S. Vittore in golden sky: built in the 4th cent. to host the remains of this saint, has on its walls mosaic figures of martyrs and saints, among which the most ancient and realistic portrait of the patron saint of Milan. From the left nave one can exit to the portico of the vicarage of Bramante with the adjoining Capitulars Archive and Library of Ambrosial Studies. Finally, the two bell towers at the sides of the façade are the Monk belfry to the right, and the Vicarage belfry to the left: they attest to the contrasts between the Benedictine monks and Vicars for faction loyalty.


Epoca/stile: romanico lombardo
Address: Piazza Sant'Ambrogio
City: Milano

In the surroundings