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Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas

Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Foto Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas -  Churches / Religious buildings
Show an other treasure of art and history in Milan:
Milan - Churches / Religious buildings: Church of the Saints Paul and BarnabasMostly represented styles: Baroque

The history of the Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas, otherwise known with its full name as the Church of the Holy Apostles Paul and Barnabas, starts in the first half of the sixteenth century, when the Congregation of the Regular Clerics of St Paul (later called Barnabiti precisely because of their association to the church described on this page) came in possession of the former Church of San Barnaba in Brolo and of the adjacent convent.

The first expansion project was due to P. Giacomo Morigia, first superior of the community and an architect himself.
But already in the middle of the sixteenth century, the church appeared again too small. This time the external architect Galeazzo Alessi was called, already author in Milan of the plans of Palazzo Marino, of the Basilica of San Vittore and of the façade of the Church of Santa Maria at San Celso.
The current version of the church, apart from later modifications, was completed in the first half of the seventeenth century.

The plan of the church is characterized by a division into three distinct areas: the wide aisle, for the people, the presbytery and the choir, the latter two reserved for the monks and higher by three steps.
The nave has a barrel voult and on each side of it there are three chapels. The presbytery is instead covered by a pavilion vault positioned transversely, almost suggesting a transept and including the highest point of the church.
The chorus is very large, so as to include sixty places, and is composed of a rectangular space and an apse.
Worth noting the windows of the church, whose structure reproduces that of the windows of the Roman Baths.
The Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas is in its structure the first example of "basilica of the Reformation", type of church which then reached perfection in the Church of San Fedele and in the Church of Jesus in Rome.

The first thing that strikes the visitor entering the church is the structure of the decorations, dominated by thin gilded stuccos embellished with motifs of that period (coats of arms, chandeliers, roses, etc ...) on the cream background. It is indeed an unique decoration type in Milan!
In accordance with the Alessi's architectural concepts the decorations are limited to the upper half of the interior spaces. The decorated area is in turn divided in half by a frieze that runs along all the walls and contains by floral elements.
The just described decorations are original and have never been amended.

The only parts of the church covered with frescos are the vault of the choir and the absidiale basin. The first is divided by stucco ribs with anthropomorphic motifs in four triangular sails depicting playing angels. Both stuccos and frescoes are of 1625 and are the work of Camillo Procaccini.
As for the absidiale basin, unfortunately the bottom part was painted ex novo in neoclassical style in the first half of the nineteenth century by C. Bellosio and is therefore completely decoupled from the upper part, which is of the first half of 1600.

Also the facade of the church, completed in 1568 and topped by a large triangular pediment, is divided into two levels. The upper level appears decorated with stucco motifs that reflect the decorations inside. Unfortunately, this decorations were removed from the inferior part in the second half of the nineteenth century.
To be noted the four niches containing statues of the saints Barnabas, Ambrose, Paul and Peter, all of which look toward the center of the church.

The sacristy is very beautiful, with a barrel vault and completely covered with frescos in baroque style painted according the technique of trompe-l'oeil. At the center of the ceiling a beautiful fresco of Preda depicting Saint Paul.

The bell tower is the sixteenth century, the upper part of it, however, was rebuilt in 1854 and is rather convoluted and little in style with the rest.

The church is also equipped with a crypt, which, however, contrary to what happens most of the time, was added only later. It was inaugurated in 1893. In it several relics and memories of the saints of the congregation are collected.

The Church of the Saints Paul and Barnabas hosts various works of art, including, to name just a few:

  • First, the two large paintings of the second half of the sixteenth century on the walls of the presbytery, works of Simone Peterzano (Caravaggio's master) and depicting two episodes of the lives of the Saints Paul and Barnabas. Both works are characterized by a division into two levels: a lower one containing the characters and an upper one occupied only by landscapes.

  • Various paintings in the choir, including a Madonna with Child, St. Anne, St. Magdalene and a Holy Bishop of 1565, by Sofonisba Anguissola and Bernardino Campi, and a Madonna with St. Carlo and St. Filippo Neri of half of 1600 by Carlo Nuvolone

  • A Pietà of the second half of the sixteenth century in the second chapel on the right, by Aurelio Luini, son of the more famous Bernardino

  • A fresco depicting a Madonna of the Milk of the XV century and probably coming from the previous church

  • The top of the original main altar, a work of the year 1635 made of ebony wood coated with sea turtle, silver ornaments and swings, also in silver, with busts and coats of arms of the Saints Paul and Barnabas. The work is currently in the sacristy.

  • The choir stalls, designed by the Alessi and dating back to 1567. They were used as a model for those, although more sumptuous, of the Duomo



Other pictures of the Church of the Saints Barnabas and Paul

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

Categories: Churches / Religious buildings


Via S. Barnaba, 18, 20122 Milano