Monday, December 07, 2009

The Feast of St. Ambrose and the Basilica Sant'Ambrogio, Milan

While many will no doubt have their minds turned to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception tomorrow, lest it be forgotten, today is also the feast day of an important Father of the Church, St. Ambrose of Milan, who lived in the 4th century (ca. 337-397) and who left us On the Mysteries -- which is of great interest to our purposes here.

That in turn should turn our considerations the rich and venerable liturgical tradition of Milan, the Ambrosian rite.

We have been considering some venerable basilicas as of late, and so what more appropriate basilica today to consider than that which is not only dedicated to St. Ambrose, but which also is the home to his relics. I have had the pleasure to visit this basilica and it is indeed a gem.

The forecourt and facade of the basilica itself

The basilica brags what is, to my mind, one of the most interesting and spectacular examples of a ciborium; the altar is also vested with a mediaeval metallic frontal.

The Ambo

The apse mosaic. Christ is enthroned and on each side are Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel bearing crowns.

Mosaics of St. Ambrose (centre), Sts. Protasius and Gervasius. These mosaics apparently show the oldest known depiction of St. Ambrose, dating from the 5th century.

A better view of the mosaic of St. Ambrose

However, the greatest treasure of the basilica is to be found within the crypt, beneath the high altar; the relics of St. Ambrose (as well as Sts. Protasius and Gervasius).

Expect more on the Ambrosian rite itself today.

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