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Home> Destinations> Europe> Milan> See> Historical

Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio

Updated: 2014-07-18 / (tourism.milan.it)

Photo from tourism.milan.it

A building rich in history and spirituality, a casket of sacred art, the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio represents, with the Cathedral, the focal point of Milan’s religious life.

The Basilica is surrounded by the devotion of the people, and it has always been a destination for pilgrims and visitors.

The superb portico, a cloister that precedes the entrance into the church itself, comprises columns with sculpted capitals. It provides an introduction to the intensely meditative atmosphere of the Basilica.

The façade has the typical Lombard Romanesque triangular pediment, and it consists of two orders, the lower of which in continuous with the portico. The Basilica has two belltowers: the oldest is the one on the right, known as the “Torre dei Monaci” (Monks’ tower) or the “old tower”, dating back to the 9th century; the tower on the left is called the Torre dei Canonici (priests’ tower), and this is in Lombard style, dating to 1128.

The church is dedicated to Ambrose, bishop of Milan. It is a superb example of Lombard Romanesque architecture. First built from 379 to 386, it was then a typically Palaeochristian structure. At that time Ambrose had named it “Basilica Martyrum.”

The building was radically modified in the Middle Ages, and today it comprises three naves. The ceiling has a ribbed vault, with columns that transfer the weight of the roof to the foundations.

The lateral naves present a great deal of art and history, with chapels containing extensive decoration, both on the vaults and the walls.

But visitors are inevitably drawn to the focal point of the Basilica, the Ciborium, a decorative canopy with Byzantine Lombard stucco work, supported by four Ancient Roman columns. The canopy highlights the “Golden Altar” underneath, a masterpiece of Carolingian goldwork.

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