Friday, February 19, 2016

The Church of St Maurice in Milan

As I noted in an article last June, when the restoration of the Church of St Maurice (San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore) of Milan was completed, it is a commonplace of Italian cultural reportage to describe a church which is especially rich in artworks as the “Sistine Chapel” of such-and-such. A classic example of this is the magnificent Scuola di San Rocco, “the Sistine Chapel of Venice.” As far as the city of Milan is concerned, the title is contested between two churches, the Charterhouse at Garegnano, and the church of St Maurice, attached to a now-suppressed convent which was formerly the most important female monastery in the city (whence its title “Greater Monastery.”) Since we just last week published some photographs of the former, taken by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’Grandi, here are some of images of the latter.

The monastery was founded in the Carolingian era, and included a church building that was much older, but the current church was begun in 1503. It is divided into two parts, one for the faithful and another for the nuns, who were quite strictly enclosed. By 1509, the basic structure of the church was completed, and the decoration of the church and its many side-chapels began, mainly through the patronage of the Bentivoglio family, four of whose daughters entered the convent, and other families associated with them. The painting of the church would continue though the rest of the 16th-century; the result is an impressive, if somewhat uneven, collection of frescoes, beginning with the disciples of Leonardo Da Vinci, chief among them Bernardino Luini, continuing through the early Mannerists, and completed at the end of the 1570s with the façade, the frescoes on the counterfaçade, and the main altarpiece for the nave of the public church, by Antonio Campi.

The altar of the public church, with frescoes by B. Luini surrounding the altarpiece of the Adoration of the Magi by Antonio Campi.

Noah’s Ark by Aurelio Luini, Bernardino’s son, 1556
The nuns’ choir

The Deposition from the Cross, by Callisto and Fulvio Piazza, 1555

St Benedict, by an unknown follower of Luini, 

Adam and Eve, also by Aurelio Luini 

Ss Benedict, Maurus and Placid.

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