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Church of Sant'Antonio Abate

Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Sant'Antonio Abate -  Churches / Religious buildings
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Milan - Churches / Religious buildings: Church of Sant'Antonio AbateMostly represented styles: Baroque

The Church of St. Anthony the Abbot is located in a small street a few steps from the Duomo. Being wedged between the houses and being its facade almost devoid of decorations, from the outside it is barely recognizable as a church. The interior, on the contrary, amazes the visitor for the great wealth of decorations, in the form of both frescoes and stuccos and canvases.

The first nucleus of the buildings that now form the Sant'Antonio Abate complex was built in the first half of the fourteenth century, when the Antonians, who had recently arrived in Milan, were called to manage the hospital founded as a legacy by Ruggero del Cerro in 1127 to assist the sick of the "sacred fire", i.e. those intoxicated by ergot. For a century, with the support of the Visconti, the Antonian order did its utmost in this activity. Continued disagreements with the clergy of the Basilica of San Nazaro, on which the church depended, led to a progressive decline of the hospital, a decline that found its fulfillment when Francesco Sforza decided to found the Ospedale Maggiore ("Major Hospital"), in which he concentrated all the hospitals of the city. In 1452 the hospital of Sant'Antonio Abate was officially suppressed and the church and its possessions were given in command.
In the fifteenth century the church underwent a first renovation, which also included the construction of the bell tower visible today. Still later the two cloisters were added, in particular the one with the terracotta portico is estimated to have been built in the sixteenth century.
In 1575, after the suppression of the commandery, the church and the convent became the property of the regular Theatine clerics.
In 1584 the church took on its current structure following the expansion works under the direction of the architect Dionigi Campanazzo.
The dedication of the Theatine fathers in assisting the sick during the Manzoni plague earned him the gratitude of the Milanese and substantial donations. The latter were used to finance the fresco decoration of the nave vault and the central part of the transept.
In the eighteenth century, the Theatine congregation went into decline.
In the Napoleonic era the convent was suppressed and transformed into the seat of the national guard, while the church was transformed into a military warehouse, with serious damage to the furnishings and decorations. Upon the arrival of the Austrians, the former convent became the seat of the military court and police offices. In 1814 a part of the convent was even used as a prison, while another became the seat of the military court for a whole century.
The church had meanwhile been reopened for worship as a subsidiary of the Basilica of San Nazaro. In 1832 the facade was rebuilt by Giacomo Tazzini.
A first restoration was carried out in 1903. Further restorations in 1998 led also to the recovery of the cloister.

The facade of the church, an unfinished work by Giacomo Tazzini (1832), has two orders separated by a thick cornice, with a large tympanum at the top. The lower order is marked by pilasters with Corinthian capitals. Among them there are four large niches containing statues depicting, from the left, the saints Gaetano da Thiene, Nicolao, Anthony Abbot and Andrea from Avellino.
In the upper order, a large lunette window.
The bell tower is the only element of the complex dating back to the Gothic period, belonging to the original structure of the Antonian convent. The nineteenth-century restorations have highlighted the elegant terracotta decorations with arches that underline the subdivisions of the floors, and the trefoil mullioned windows of the belfry. The conical roof resumes the tradition of the Milanese bell towers of the period.

The church has a Latin cross plan with a single nave with a barrel vault with lunettes, three chapels on each side, a short transept and a deep rectangular choir.
The interior is richly decorated. The walls are marked by fluted pilasters with Corinthian capital. They virtually support a thick entablature decorated with gilded stuccoes depicting festoons and putti in all different poses. Between the pilasters and the arches of the chapels there are angels, also in stucco.
The nave receives light from large rectangular windows placed in the lunettes and decorated with gilded stucco frames.
The three bays of the vault are divided by bands decorated with gilded stucco and putti frescoes.
However, dominating the interior of the church are the frescoes on the vault of the nave and on the central part of the transept. They were painted between 1631 and 1632 by the Genoese brothers Giovanni and Giovan Battista Carloni and depict Stories of the Cross. The three main moments of the legend of the cross are depicted on the vault of the nave: The Cross Appears to Constantine, The Trial of the True Cross and Heraclius brings the Cross back to Jerusalem. At the center of the transept is represented The triumph of the Cross. Finally, in the four trapezoidal panels, four stories from the Old Testament are depicted which allude to the sacrifice of the cross. The squares are separated by richly decorated gilded stucco frames.
A rich gilded stucco decoration also characterizes the triumphal arch on which characters from the Holy Scriptures are represented inside rounds. The medallion in the center, with the richest frame, depicts Jesus Christ and is flanked by two angels.
On the opposite side, on the counter-fa├žade, there is a wooden choir loft containing an organ from 1865, restored in 2006.

The side chapels all have the same structure: shallow and with a barrel vault.

Left side (Fig. 4):
First chapel: It has no altar because in its place there is a door. This is however inserted in an elaborate portal with a large triangular tympanum. On the sides two trompe l'oeil statues of angels and, above, the representation of two cherubs holding scrolls.
Chapel of San Gaetano da Thiene: It is dedicated to the holy founder of the Theatine congregation. Made on a project by Gerolamo Quadrio and completed only in 1674, it is characterized by the prevalence of dark shades. It is bordered by an elaborate polychrome marble balustrade in which statues of putti are also inserted. Also the altar and the large altarpiece are in polychrome marble. On the front of the altar there are two angels with between them a relief depicting the death of San Gaetano. The retable has an architectural structure, with two gables one inside the other. At the apex four winged cherubs. The altarpiece is a painting by Giovan Battista Crespi known as Cerano from the early seventeenth century depicting The ecstasy of the blessed Gaetano. In the two niches in the side walls the statues of Faith and Providence, made by Giuseppe Rusnati at the end of the seventeenth century. Inserted in the entrance arch there are then 6 hexagonal frames containing reliefs, also made by Rusnati, depicting episodes from the life of the saint.
Acerbi Chapel, or of the Virgin of the Annunciation: It was probably completed in 1612. The altar, equipped with a frontal in scagliola, still has a late sixteenth-century style. The large retable above it culminates in a broken baroque tympanum. The pictorial decoration in the chapel is entirely due to Giulio Cesare Procaccini: Annunciation (altarpiece), Visitation (left wall), Flight into Egypt (right wall), Three Angels (in the tympanum) and the Eternal in glory (on the vault).
Right side (Fig. 5):
First chapel: It has the same structure as the chapel facing it and therefore has no altar because in its place there is a door framed in a portal. The upper part of the wall is occupied by a large trompe l'oeil altarpiece surrounded by cherubs holding scrolls.
Chapel dedicated to S. Andrea Avelline: Its current appearance is due to the renovation at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is bordered by a red marble balustrade. The polychrome marble altar has a scagliola frontal and is surmounted by a large altarpiece in polychrome marble with a broken tympanum on which two angels rest. The altarpiece is by Francesco Cairo. It depicts The fainting of the blessed Andrea da Avellino and dates back to 1630.
Chapel of the Immaculate Conception: The chapel has a sumptuous altar decorated with polychrome marble columns and a precious stone tabernacle. Like the chapel of San Gaetano, it houses masterpieces of Baroque statuary by Rusnati: on the altar, the Virgin with child trampling the devil, and under the table, the dead Christ supported by angels.
The left transept (Fig. 5) houses the Chapel of the Relics, formerly under the patronage of the Trivulzio family. Among others, it also houses the relic of the Holy Cross received by the Theatines in Rome. The altarpiece entitled "The Go to Calvary" is an eighteenth-century copy from Palma the Younger and hides the sacred deposits from view.
The right transept corresponds to the Chapel of the Ascension erected in 1610 and decorated with frescoes by Tanzio da Varallo; on the altar the altarpiece by Giovan Battista Trotti known as Malosso depicting the Ascension, at the walls are the Resurrection by Cerano and paintings by A. Vajani known as il Fiorentino; the two large canvases by Ludovico Carracci The adoration of shepherds and by Morazzone Adoration of the Magi.

The choir is also richly decorated, with the decorative structures in the nave practically continuing seamlessly in it. The back wall has three large windows, which ensure good lighting. In the center, in a frame decorated with gilded stucco, a canvas depicting the Ecstasy of St. Anthony Abbot by Camillo Procaccini. The vault is decorated with frescoes depicting Stories of St. Anthony Abbot by Guglielmo Caccia, also known as Moncalvo, from the first century of the seventeenth century. On the side walls a cycle of canvases dedicated to the same theme by Domenico Pellegrini.

To the left of the entrance to the church is the former convent of the Theatines, with a 16th century cloister with a double loggia on Tuscan and Ionic style columns, which today houses the Milanese Catholic Action (House of Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster). The cloister is in the forms of the Lombard Renaissance, inspired by Bramante. In fact, in the round arches supported by stone columns and covered in terracotta, it reproduces the late fifteenth century models of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie and of the Cloisters of Sant'Ambrogio. With the exception of the side leaning against the church, where the arches are simply simulated in relief in the plaster, the other sides still show large pieces of the original sixteenth-century decoration, which uses classic Renaissance motifs in the ornamentation such as griffins, young heads alternating with bearded heads, horse-head shields, acanthus leaf festoons. The second cloister was covered after the war, transforming it into a classroom.

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Categories: Churches / Religious buildings

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Further pictures of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate in the section Photography
Milano: Fresco of the Triumph of the Cross in the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Triumph arch and frescoed ceiling of the presbytery of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Ceiling covered with frescos of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Detail of the decorated ceiling of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Decorated presbytery of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Frescos on the vault of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Detail of the interior of the church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Interior of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Detail of the interior of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Detail of the interiors of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Presbytery and transept of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Vault of the church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Freskos in the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Nave of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Vault and triumphal arch decorated with stuccos and frescoes in the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate
Milano: Triumphal arch and vault of the crossing of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate