Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

Unicorns in Milan’s Sistine Chapel

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Discover San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore Church in Milan, known as the Milan’s Sistine Chapel.

People often travel to Milan for fashion and shopping, soccer and, this year, the Expo. Milan’s fashion industry is known all over the world. Many passionate soccer fans come here to see a game at San Siro stadium. And this year, thousands of Expo tickets have been already sold all over the world.

However, Milan can surprise even the expert travelers whose itinerary goal is the architectural and historical heritage of Italy.
Turning a corner and escaping shopping streets of Milan, one can find many historical treasures often hidden behind not-so-appealing facades.

This is the case of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore Church located in via Meravigli, five minutes walk from Duomo di Milano.

Built in the beginning of the XVI century, San Maurizio was originally a female convent of the Benedictines. Its novices were daughters of noble Milanese families who had decided to dedicate their lives to God in seclusion (and sometimes against their will: just to avoid to fragmentize the family inheritance…). What is interesting however, the wealthy families of the nuns have never forgotten their secluded descendants and were financially supporting the convent investing into its beauty and commodity. Thus, thanks to such strong and constant economic sustain, San Maurizio was able to afford incredible golden decors, the magnificent organ and numerous world-wide famous frescoes.

Probably the most celebrated artworks of San Maurizio belong to Bernardino Luini, famed Italian painter from Leonardo’s circle, and to his son Aurelio. The fresco I personally like the most is “Storie dell’arca di Noè” (Stories of Noah’s Ark) by Aurelio Luini, that proves that unicorns exist! Take a look!

Saying that, San Maurizio has one quite unique and unusual future that deserves a special attention. It is the inside wall that partially separates the church interior into two independent parts. The cloistered nuns, in fact, were following the mass from the autonomous private hall reserved for the sisters only. With no doubt it is the most luxury space of the whole complex. The general public, instead, was following the mass from the front hall.

So, that’s how San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore Church looks like. Hidden, golden, splendid and definitely worth to be discovered.

Maria Novozhilova

twitter: @NovozhilovaM