Wednesday, July 27, 2016

More Medieval Frescoes from Milan

We have written about the Greater Monastery of Milan a few times recently, often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Milan, since the comprehensive restoration, completed just over a year ago, of its 16th century church. The monastery as a foundation was far older than the church, however, going back to the Carolingian era, and partly incorporating structures which were even older. One of these is a tower which was originally part of the walls built around Milan in the very late 3rd or very early 4th century by the Emperor Maximilian. The tower was on the western side of the ancient city walls, part of the section that included the city’s charity racing circus, and very close to the imperial palace.

The interior of the tower was transformed into a chapel in the Middle Ages; the frescoes preserved therein today are from the 14th century. These photos come to us, of course, from our Milanese and Ambrosian Rite correspondent, Nicola de’ Grandi.

The tower built ca. 300 A.D.
On the left, St Francis receives the stigmata; the identification of the other Saints is not altogether clear, but the Dominican will certainly be Saint Peter the Martyr, whose relics are kept in Milan.

A medieval document refers to an altar within the complex of the Greater Monastery dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, where Masses for the dead were celebrated, “since the Saints in the resurrection do not marry, nor are they given in marriage, but they will be like the angels in heaven.” The more elaborate decoration around St Michael indicates that this was likely the location of said altar.
The identity of the three Saints shown here in prison is also disputed. They may be one of two groups of Milanese Saints either Vitalis and his sons Protasius and Gervasius, or Saints Victor, Nabor and Felix. They may also be Saint Maurice, to whom the church of monastery was dedicated, along with two other members of the Theban Legion, Ss Exsuperius and Candidus.

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