Milan’s Secret Corners: Middle Ages and Reinassance

A short journey through time in the shade of the Duomo to discover the hidden soul of the city

  • Milan’s Secret Corners: Middle Ages and Reinassance
  • Milan’s Secret Corners: Middle Ages and Reinassance
  • Milan’s Secret Corners: Middle Ages and Reinassance
  • Milan’s Secret Corners: Middle Ages and Reinassance

Milan knows well how to play hide and seek only to occasionally unveil its hidden beauty. The Italian capital of fashion, communication and design has learnt the art of telling a story long before branding and storytelling were even a thing. Well-educated and bourgeois, Milan opens up in its own way: if you wish to get to know the city, you need to take a look behind the scenes.
So, let us start off from a very remote time and from the heart of the city, close to the fancy and central Corso Magenta. Here sits the Ansperto Tower, an imposing building dating back to the 3rd century AD when Milan became the capital of the Western Roman Empireand its urban structure was strengthened with new city walls. The name comes from Ansperto da Biassono, the archbishop of Milan who had it restored.
An imaginary bridge between Roman and medieval Milan, the so-called "Devil’s Pillar" sits next to the beautiful Sant'Ambrogio cathedral. The pillar has two holes and legend has it that they are the marks of the Devil’s horns, which got stuck in the marble during the devil’s fight with St. Ambrosius. Some even go as far as to say that you can still smell sulfur around the pillar.
Dating back to the 13th century, the ancient ossuary, which is currently housed inside the Baroque church of San Bernardino, in Via Verziere, makes for quite a gruesome view. It collects the remains of leprosy patients from nearby Ospedale del Brolo, which got destroyed.
In the 15thcentury, Milan was ruled by the Sforza family and it was one of the most glorious times for the city. The huge Sforzesco Castle and Leonardo da Vinci’s works collected in the city’s are part of the heritage of that era (Da Vinci was the same age as Ludovico il Moro, as well as his protegé). Lesser known but absolutely unique, Leonardo’s vineyard, donated to him by Lodovico il Moro himself, has been recently restored and relaunched thanks to a philological rediscovery of these ancient vines in collaboration with the University of Milan. In Lodovico’s mind, the surrounding area was supposed to become a new district where the duke’s most faithful men would live. The French invasion in 1500 stopped the project but the garden of Casa degli Atellani, the only dwelling left and carefully restored in the 20th century by architect Pietro Portaluppi, brings back the atmosphere of that time.
In the same years, one of Italy’s most celebrated architects off all time, Bramante, came to town. The Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro houses one of his masterpieces: a painted perspective which is one of the first trompe l’oeil in art history. 
The church of San Cristoforo al Naviglio, which can be reached by crossing the Naviglio Grande on an ancient footbridge, is yet another of Milan’s hidden gems. Inside this small Gothic and late Romanesque church overlooking one of the most important waterways of the city, history often left its marks: on this premises, the defeat of Federico Barbarossa was announced in 1176, Ludovico il Moro first met his future bride Beatrice d'Este three centuries later and the acts of the Cisalpine Republic were burned 1813, causing the revolt that would cause its collapse. the plague of the '600 described by Alessandro Manzoni in I Promessi Sposi: Behind the church’s sacristy is the so-called "Chapel of the Dead", which used to be connected to the leper hospital in the time of the great 17thcentury plague, famously described by Milanese writer Alessandro Manzoni in The Betrothed.

Author : The Slowear Journal


Milan  | hidden city  | art  | culture  | history  |

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