Saturday, November 04, 2023

The Chapel of St Charles in Milan Cathedral to Reopen

The cathedral of Milan has just announced that after a two-year long restoration, the chapel in the crypt which contains the relics of St Charles Borromeo will soon be reopened. This chapel is known as the “scurolo”, a term which derives from a Milanese dialect word, “scuroeu – an underground or scarcely lit room.” The octagonal chapel was built in 1606, four years after Charles was beatified. (He was canonized by Pope Paul V on All Saints’ Day of 1610.) Around 1670, Cardinal Alfonso Litta, archbishop of Milan, had it decorated with silk embroidered draperies, and a series of silver relief panels which show episodes from the life of St Charles. The Saint’s body, dressed in pontifical vestments, is in an urn above the altar made of silver and rock crystal. For many years, it was the custom that Roman Rite bishops visiting Milan could only celebrate Mass within the Duomo at this altar.

In the first photograph above, one can see most of an elongated octagon in the ceiling, with a decorative metal grid laid over it. When the scurolo was originally built, this was completely open; on the floor of the nave, the aperture was surrounded by a metal balustrade decorated with four statues of angels holding candlesticks. Most unfortunately, in the post-Conciliar period, the decision was made to close this opening with a large piece of concrete, and plant the versus populum altar on top of it. The recent renovation was necessitated in part by the atmospheric problems created by the lack of air circulation between the crypt and the nave. (Thanks to Nicola for these photos.)

Here is a photograph of the Blessed Ildephonse Schuster celebrating Pontifical Mass at the high altar of the Duomo on the feast of St Charles, whose statue was placed on the Gospel side of the upper gradine only for this annual occasion.

On the same day in 1894, Cardinal Andrea Ferrari made his solemn entry into the Duomo, departing from the church of St Eustorgius, as is the custom. Upon his election, the new archbishop took Charles as a second name in tribute to his sainted predecessor.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: