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Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli  -  Churches / Religious buildings
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Milan - Churches / Religious buildings: Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli Mostly represented styles: Renaissance - Baroque

The beautiful church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli at San Celso is an example of Renaissance architecture in Milan and is another monument not easy to spot from the profane, being located on the back of a courtyard closed to the outside by a high wall.

HISTORY
The history of the church begins with an ancient image of the Virgin, called of Sant'Ambrogio, placed in a niche in a votive aedicule next to the ancient Basilica of San Celso, a church in which, according to the tradition, Sant'Ambrogio had buried the remains found of the holy dedicatee.
In 1430, also because of miraculous events in 1429, Filippo Maria Visconti decided to build a small church to protect the sacred image. Ended in 1439, according to some this oratory had to be oriented orthogonally to the Basilica of San Celso, with the image of the Madonna of Sant'Ambrogio altarpiece of the high altar. According to others, however, the orientation was from the beginning the canonical one, parallel to the Basilica of San Celso (still present today, although reduced in size). In this second case it is probable that the choir of the current church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli coincides with the apse of this original oratory.
Already in 1485 this building had been expanded. That year is important because according to tradition it was in that year, during an epidemic of plague, that the Virgin of Sant'Ambrogio, miraculously took life during the mass and after that the epidemic ceased.

In light of this miracle it was decided, in 1489, to build a sanctuary in place of the small church. The work was entrusted to three engineers. One was certainly Gian Giacomo Quadri, called the Dolcebuono. For the other two, various hypotheses have been made, including Bramante, Lazzaro Palazzi, Cristoforo Solari.
The initial project, which was actually carried out for about fifteen years, provided a plan with a Latin cross plan with a single nave with three semi-circular chapels on each side, dome and tiburium.
Already in 1493 the Dolcebuono was replaced with Cristoforo Solari, with Antonio Amadeo as the director of the works.
In 1506 the new building under construction was estimated to be too small and it was decided to add the side aisles, replacing the three chapels with four spans with cross vault. Furthermore, it was decided to demolish some buildings facing the façade, in order to add the quadriporticus.
In 1513 a new project was defined, attributed to Cesare Cesariano. For the definitive arrangement of the vaults and for the construction of the ambulatory around the choir, however, Cristoforo Lombardi was named.
Other great architects of the time were involved in the factory: Zenale, between 1514 and 1525, Vincenzo Seregni (1556), Galeazzo Alessi, who between 1565 and 1568 provided the final drawings of the facade, Martino Bassi, who succeeded Alessi.
The bulk of the church's pictorial decorative apparatus dates from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. However, various things were added later, so that even at the end of the nineteenth century some details of the choir were still to be completed.
In general the pictorial decoration of the sanctuary can be divided into two main periods. The first, focused on the mid-sixteenth century, sees the prevalence of Veneto taste. This is because by the ducal decree the sanctuary was governed by a council of nobles, who were closer, regarding their artistic tastes, to the imperial court of Charles V than to the local environment. The second period, which starts from the election of the Milanese Pope Pius IV and the appointment of Carlo Borromeo as archbishop of Milan, instead sees the reaffirmation of Milanese artists.

STRUCTURE
Atrium

The church is barely visible from the road because in front of it there is a large brick quadriporticus. The original project was by Cristoforo Solari, the final project by Cesare Cesariano, a pupil of Bramante. In the second half of the 16th century, Martino Bassi superimposed on the surfaces towards the inside marble bases and semi-columns (with bronze capitals) to make the portico more in tune with the grandiose marble façade.
Under the portico there are, on the left, a marble round representing the Virgin of the Miracle and, on the right, a fountain.

Facade
The original project is by Galeazzo Alessi, while Martino Bassi retouched the original project especially in the upper part.
The sumptuous façade, completely in marble, is in four orders, marked by pilasters and half-columns. It should be noted that the two upper orders are approx. half as broad as the lower ones.
The first order is characterized by the presence of five doors (the twomost lateral ones under the two lateral branches of the quadriporticus). The central door is flanked on each side by two marble columns with bronze corinthian capitals by Annibale Fontana. Above the entablature (which runs along the entire façade) a broken tympanum on whose two pieces two sibyls are placed, they too by Fontana.
In side positions, within two niches, the statues of Adam and Eve, works of Stoldo Lorenzi. Adam is however a copy, since the original was brought to the museum of the Sforza Castle.
The second order sees the presence of various bas-reliefs. At the center the Annunciation of the Angel to the Virgin of Stoldo Lorenzi and the Birth of Jesus of Fontana. On the left and on the right, then, the Presentation at the Temple by Lorenzi and the Adoration of the Magi by Fontana. Finally, on the sides, the statues of the two prophets Isaiah and Zechariah, both by Fontana.
The third order houses three windows. The central one, larger, is decorated with caryatids and is closed by a stained glass window, with the Assumption of the Virgin; rebuilt after the war, in place of the primitive one destroyed by the bombings of August 1943. The statues are of the prophet Jeremiah on the left (Fontana), on the right of the prophet Ezekiel (Lorenzi). Furthermore, two very slender obelisks and various pinnacles are present laterally, resting on the parts of the second order that exceed the width of the upper orders.
The fourth order hosts other four bas-reliefs, from left to right: Visit of Maria to S. Elisabeth (Giulio Cesare Procaccini), Escape to Egypt (Lorenzi), Marriage of Cana (Fontana), Nativity (G. C. Procaccini).
The large tympanum contains a bas-relief with the scene of Mary's empty tomb (by Vimercati). On the upper edge of the pediment there is a copy of the statue of the Assumption Virgin in the center (the original, a work of Fontana, was taken to the retrochoir) and four angels. Two of them are of the Fontana and two of the Vimercati.

Tiburium
Another element characterizing the exterior of the church, and a typically Lombard element, is undoubtedly the tiburium, the cylindrical structure located externally around the dome. Dome and tiburium are due to Dolcebuono and Amadeo and were finished as a structure already in the early sixteenth century.
The tiburium still retains its original fifteenth-century characteristics. It is located above the intersection of the main nave with the transept, a cubic space of 12 meters on each side. Dodecagonal, the tiburium includes a thick base, externally without decorations but that inside corresponds to a frieze with twelve niches with inside the terracotta statues of the twelve apostles (Agostino de Fondutis, 1502), the upper vertical zone, with a binate lodge on each of the twelve sides, the roof and a lantern with circular section. The upper part corresponds internally to the dome.

Interior
It is a true model of late Renaissance Milanese architecture, showing an almost pagan humanistic spirit.
The roof of the central nave is barrel-shaped and does not correspond to the original one of the fifteenth century, which had to be a cross vault like that of the side aisles.
Very rare case in the Milanese churches, there is an ambulatory that runs behind the choir and which connects the two side aisles. This is in line with the fact that the two side aisles were added in a second phase, when the choir had already been built. The internal walls of the ambulatory (which belong to the older parts of the building) have some stylistic analogies with the coeval Malatesta Temple in Rimini, with light marble surfaces decorated with geometric marble inserts of different colors.
Another very distinctive stylistic element is represented by the decoration of the roofing corresponding to the width of the main nave: from the entrance to the apse, almost like a long blanket, there is a repeated relief decoration formed by circular elements joined together and interspersed with stylized floral elements, all on a blue background. The width of these elements varies so as to underline the geometry of the roof.
The marvelous decoration of the marble floor realized by Martino Bassi corresponds to the ceiling of the main nave. It has a decoration in light, red and dark marble that reminds a little bit that of the ceiling (although in this case it also extends to the side aisles). At the dome it is enriched to create an authentic kaleidoscope of shapes and alternations of the three colors.
Completely different the decoration (by Cerano, G. C. Procaccini, the Campi brothers, Callisto Piazza, Carlo Urbino and the Fiamminghini brothers) of the cross vaults of the side aisles and of the ambulatory. In this case each vault is decorated with stuccos and frescoes in a different way, although always respecting the subdivision according to a radial symmetry of the decorations.
In clear contrast with the richness of floor and ceiling decorations is the linearity and simplicity of the rectangular pillars of the nave.

Chapels
The chapels are four on each side, plus the side arms of the transept, plus nine other chapels in the ambulatory, for a total of nineteen.
Starting from the entrance, on the left side we have:
First left Chapel: Virgin among Saints, by Bergognone (1450-1522). Stucco and frescoes of the Cerano.
Second left Chapel: Virgin between Saints Nazzaro and Celso. 14th century fresco, transported here by the pre-existent church, called S. Nazzaro in Campo.
This rapresentation of the Virgin is very revered under the title of "Vergin of the Tears".
Above, a painting by Francesco Panfilo, called il Nuvolone (1608-1691) with a graceful escape of angels. Stucco and frescoes of the Cerano.
Third left Chapel: Martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, of Cerano (1557c.-1632c.). Frescoes by the Della Rovere brothers, called the Fiamminghini.
Fourth left Chapel: Pity by Giulio Cesare Procaccini. (1570c.-1625).
Fifth left Chapel: 4th century sarcophagus. He contained the relics of San Celso, placed there by Sant'Ambrogio and kept in the Basilica of S. Celso. It was Cardinal Schuster who translated the relics from the Basilica to the Sanctuary.
On the front of the sarcophagus five evangelical scenes, which follow each other contiguously, without dividing signs: the Crib, the Magi, Christ between the Apostles Peter and Paul, women at the tomb, the "Confession of faith of Thomas".
On the right side: Moses strikes the rock; on the left: healing of the emorissa.
Altarpiece: Assumption by Camillo Procaccini (1546-1627).
Canvas on the left with St. Francis and frescoes by Procaccini. Under the painting of the Assumption, in a urn, the martyr S. Basilide.
On the right side there are instead:
First right Chapel: Saint Catherine of Siena kisses the side of Jesus, by Melchiorre Gherardini. Frescos and stuccos of the Cerano.
Second right Chapel: The Virgin's family with Saints Joachim and Anna, recently attributed to the "Legnanino". Frescoes of the Cerano.
Third right Chapel: The Crucifix of St. Charles, a work of wood of little artistic value but of great historical and devotional value.
It was taken to the Sanctuary from San Carlo himself, in a memorable procession of penance, at the time of the plague that took its name from him. The frescoes of the vaults are by the Fiamminghini.
Under the altar table, composed in a golden bronze urn, the body of St. Celso. In 1935 Card. Schuster removed it from the hiding of the artistic sarcophagus as he wanted it visible to the devotion of the faithful.
Fourth right Chapel: Martyrdom of the Saints Nazzaro and Celso, famous table by Giulio Cesare Procaccini. The frescoes on the walls and on the vault of the same painter.
Fifth right Chapel: in the center: Large table with Saint Jerome receiving the cardinal's hat from the Child Jesus in presence of Mary and Joseph. At the top of the lunette there is the Eternal Father, just above the altar, San Rocco, on the upper walls frescoes. Everything is the work of Paris Bordone (1500-1570), a disciple of Titian. Wonderful work, unique of this painter in the Sanctuary, but of great artistic value, such as to represent the Venetian school in all its value.
In the ambulatory, from left to right, they are furthermore:
First Chapel: Fall of St. Paul, very popular table by Moretto (1498c.-1554). Frescoes of the vault attributed to Moretto.
Second Chapel: Frescoes by Bossius.
Third Chapel: St. Jerome in the desert, table of Callisto Piazza (1562). Frescoes of the same painter.
It is called the Madonna of Blessing, of the Farewell or also of Missionaries.
Fifth Chapel: The Baptism of Jesus by Gaudenzio Ferrari (1470-1546), the only work, but very valuable, of the illustrious painter, in possession of the Sanctuary. Opposite the original statue of the Assumption, by Fontana, already on the gable of the facade now replaced with a copy.
Sixth Chapel: Assumption of Carlo Urbino.
Seventh Chapel: S. Renato Vescovo di Torino (415-60) also by Carlo Urbino.
Eighth Chapel: Frescoes by Bossius.
Ninth Chapel: Resurrection of Jesus, by Antonio Campi (1514-1587).

Altar of the Virgin of Miracles
Picture here!)
It is placed against one of the corners of the cubic volume above which the dome is positioned.
It was designed and built by Agostino Bassi, in the years 1584-88.
The sculptural decoration should serve as a frame for the ancient votive fresco incorporated in the left front pillar of the presbytery.
The altar is equipped with an opening antependium on whose two silver doors the Fontana sculpted the Birth and the Transit of the Virgin. Above the altar, placed on a bronze base by Giovan Battista Busca, there is a magnificent statue of the Assumption of the Virgin built by the Fontana between 1583 and 1586. The angels that hold the crown are instead of Giulio Cesare Procaccini and are of little later (1602-1607).
The structure that frames the statue is like a large tabernacle around the central niche. The columns covered in silver foil are fluted and bear capitals in gilded bronze. They hold a double triangular tympanum, one inside the other.

High Altar
The altar is in black marble with inlays of polychrome marble. The base was completed in 1731. Only in 1837 the ciborium by Canonica, the statue of Christ the Redeemer by Paretti and the two adoring angels were added.

Choir
The original design of the inlaid wood choir is of Alessi and is from 1570 ca. Richly decorated in all its parts, with the presence of both abstract motifs, landscape scenes in bas-relief and all-round putti, it can be considered in all respects a work of sculpture.
However, it was repeatedly retouched, restored and modified until the nineteenth century.

Dome and counter-façade
As mentioned above, the dome has a decoration homogeneous with that of the central nave and the apse. On the other hand, the spandrels of the dome and the two side arches present much more recent frescoes, realized by Andrea Appiani in the years 1792-1795 and depicting, in a style that wants to imitate that of the late-Renaissance, the four evangelists and the Doctors of the Church.
The counter-façade is characterized by the presence of two large caryatids next to the main entrance door (Fig. 9 one of them). The cantoria, with a balustrade decorated with angels and garlands in bas-relief, houses a recent organ, alongside which, in two very elaborate niches, there are two statues of David and Moses, made between 1576 and 1578 by Stoldo Lorenzi.

Sacristies
The church has two sacristies. One is called suimply Sacristy, and in it there is a sink by Bernardo Palanchino and two valuable paintings: Annunciation and Visitation by Camillo Procaccini (the attribution to Cerano seems wrong).
In the other, called "of the Treasure", there are walnut wood furniture, by G. B. Mangone. The Assumption with the cherubim and the statues of the 12 apostles are by Giovanni Taurini.
In front of the door a copy made by the Knoller of Raphael's Escape in Egypt. The original is in Vienna, brought the by order of Joseph II. Above the door: The two Mothers, copy. The original of Leonardo and Salaino is in Paris, by the will of the Viceroy Eugenio Beauharnais.

The Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli near San Celso is also known as the "Church of the Spouses", because there is the tradition that the spouses, after the celebration, visit it to pay homage to the Virgin of Miracles.

If you are interested in a guided tour of this monument send an email!

Categories: Churches / Religious buildings


Corso Italia, 37, 20122 Milano
Further pictures of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in the section Photography
Milano: Milan (Italy)Interior of the dome of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Statues of the apostles at the base of the dome of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Facade of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Interior of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Main entrance of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Fountain in the quadriporticus of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Ceiling of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli at the intersection of nave and transept
Milano: Statues above the main entrance of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano : Statue of the Assumption in the retrochoir of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Left nave of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Quadriporticus of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Vault of one span of the lateral naves in the the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Decorated vault of the first span of the right nave in the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Decorated vault of one span of the lateral naves in the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Internal side of the main door of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano : Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli: what you see from the street
Milano: Detail of the altar of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Main altar of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Altar of the Virgon of Miracles in the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Fifth left chapel of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Milano: Shapes and colors inside the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli