Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The Basilica of St Victor in Milan

The church of Milan today celebrates the feast of the martyr St Victor, a Christian soldier from the Roman province of Africa, who was killed in the first year of the persecution of Diocletian, 303 AD, while serving at Milan under the Emperor Maximian. He is usually called “Maurus - the Moor” to distinguish him from the innumerable other Saints called Victor, which was a very common name in the Roman world. St Mirocles, bishop of the city at the time of the Edict of Milan, originally buried the martyr in a small basilica just outside the city walls; in the later part of the 4th century, St Ambrose translated the relics to a chapel built for that purpose, within the basilica where he himself was later buried, and which is now named for him. (This chapel, San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro, contains the famous mosaic portrait of St Ambrose.) In the 9th century, the relics were returned to the original basilica, known as St Victor ‘ad corpus’, and have remained there ever since; they were officially recognized as authentic by the Bl. Schuster in 1941. In the mid-16th century, the church was completely rebuilt by the Olivetan monks who then had charge of it; once again, our thanks to Nicola for sharing his pictures of one of the many beautiful churches of his city.

The architect Galeazzo Alessi, who had charge of the rebuilding project, intended to build a portico in front, but this was never realized, leaving the upper and lower parts of the façade with this rather disjointed appearance.

The main altar, which contains the relics of St Victor, was consecrated by St Charles Borromeo in 1576, when the rebuilding of the church was almost completed.

The main altar seen from behind, in the monastic choir. (The Olivetans were expelled from the church in 1805, during the Napoleonic suppression of religious houses; it is now a parish.)

The cupola is decorated with figures of the four Evangelists by Daniele Crespi (1598-1630) in the pendentives; eight Sybils by Gugliemo Caccia, known as “Il Monclavo” (1568-1625), in the drum, and eighty Angels in the dome itself, also by Caccia.

In the ceiling of the choir, The Coronation of the Virgin, by Ercole Procaccini the Younger (1605-75.)

The tabernacle of the main altar.
This image of Abraham and Melchisedek on the door of the tabernacle is made of gilded bronze on lapis lazuli, the work of Carlo Garavaglia, 1647.
The nave seen from the sanctuary.
The Martyrdom of St Victor, by Camillo Procaccini (1551-1629)
The choir stalls, carved in the 1580s, have scenes from the life of St Benedict on the panels above the seats.

The sacristy
The relic cupboard
Camillo Procaccini also painted a series of images that decorated the casing of the organ, which was dismantled in the mid-18th century. These paintings are now kept in the sacristy; here, The Annunciation.

The Adoration of the Shepherds. 
The two parts of his Crossing of the Red Sea were formerly on the organ’s doors; they are here united as a single painting, but the stitch between the panels is evident.
The painters of the two other panels from the organ are unknown.
The Adoration of the Magi
The Visitation
Two historical images: The Sacristy of St Victor, by Giovanni Pessina (1836-1904).
A drawing by an anonymous Dutch artist of the 16th century, showing the apse of the ancient church, and the monastic complex behind it.

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