Milan was founded by the Gauls in the early 4th century B.C. and grew rapidly following the Roman conquest in 222 B.C. By 1277, Archbishop Otto Visconti imposed hegemony over the city and 130 years of Visconti rule ensued. Gian Visconti (1351-1402) was a generous patron of the arts and initiated the construction of the magnificent Duomo.
The Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Milan Italy.
Santa Maria delle Grazie is located in Milan, northern Italy. It is a church complex and a Dominican convent renowned for Leonardo da Vinci’s acclaimed work, “The Last Supper” which is housed in the convent’s refectory. It was painted between 1495 and 1497. The church is an outstanding example of Italian Renaissance architecture crowned by Donato Bramante’s elegant dome. The restoration of the fresco was completed during the 500 year anniversary of Leonardo’s completion of the masterpiece.
Reserve tickets well in advance prior to your departure.
Plan your trip well in advance to the refectory of the convent of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
“The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie forms an integral part of this architectural complex, begun in Milan in 1463 and reworked at the end of the 15th century by Bramante. On the north wall is The Last Supper, the unrivaled masterpiece painted between 1495 and 1497 by Leonardo da Vinci, whose work was to herald a new era in the history of art.” UNESCO
Outstanding Universal Value from the UNESCO Site:
“The complex, including the Church and Convent, was built from 1463 onwards by Guiniforte Solari, and was afterwards considerably modified at the end of 15th century by Bramante, one of the masters of the Renaissance. Bramante structurally enlarged the church and added large semi-circular apses, a wonderful drum-shaped dome surrounded by columns, and a spectacular cloister and refectory.
The painting was commissioned in 1495 and completed in 1497. The representation by Leonardo da Vinci depicted the moment immediately after Christ said, “One of you will betray me”. Leonardo rejected the classical interpretation of the composition and had Jesus in the midst of the Apostles; he also created four groups of three figures on either side of Christ. The 12 Apostles reacted in differing ways; their movements and expressions are magnificently captured in Leonardo’s work. The genius of the artist is seen especially in the use of light and strong perspective. Unfortunately, Leonardo did not work in fresco but in tempera on a two-layered surface of plaster that did not absorb paint. It was as early as 1568 when Vasari first pointed out problems with this painting technique.
The Last Supper, which Leonardo da Vinci painted in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, is undisputedly one of the world’s masterpieces of painting. Its unique value, which over the centuries has had immense influence in the field of figurative art, is inseparable from the architectural complex.”
The Duke of Milan, Francesco I Sforza gave orders to build the convent and a church at the site where a chapel dedicated to St. Mary of the Graces stood. Construction began in 1463 under Guiniforte Solari, who was the chief architect, entrusted with planning and direction. The convent was completed by 1469 and the church in 1482. Duke Ludovico Sforza rebuilt the apse and the cloister to use the church as a burial site for the Sforza family. Beatrice, wife of Ludovico, was laid to rest in the church in 1497.
Much of the additions and changes in the complex took place under Donato Bramante who was at the helm of the Duchy during that period. The apses were designed, and an exalted cupola was built with a border of columns. The cloister was further designed, and a refectory was added.
There are seven square chapels devoted to the Virgin of Graces, barring the last one, on the sides of the church. The Chapel of Santa Caterina houses sculptures by Antonello da Messina while both the Chapels of the Adoring Virgin and the Holy Crown contain frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari. The church also boasts frescoes by Bernardo Zenale representing Resurrection and Passion.
The northern side of the church contains the ancient Chapel delle Grazie, rooms of the Chapter House and a library whereas the southern side is occupied by the refectory which houses the Leonardo da Vinci’s fresco, and “The Crucifixion,” one of the most notable works by the Milanese painter Donato da Montorfano.
After you visit the Gothic church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and admire Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” you may want to book a room at Galleria Vik Milano, Four Seasons Hotel Milano, Mandarin Oriental, Milan or the TownHouse Duomo, Milan which all offer luxury accomodations close to the Duomo and Galleria.
What else should you see in Milan?
Milan is similar to New York because it is the nucleus of finance, business and fashion. Many Italian multinational corporations are headquartered in Milan. The location contributes to the historic significance of trade with countries north of the Alps. Milan has many interesting tourist attractions.
Lombardy’s capital is set at the foot of the Alps and serves as the business capital of Italy. Milan is also the Italian hub of fashion. Designer luminaries grace the catwalks of Milan.
The famous monument by Claes Oldenburg’s is a brightly colored “Needle, Thread, and Knots” and symbolizes Milan’s fashion prowess. This interesting sculpture is in Piazzale Cadorna in front of the train station. The city is an upscale shopping mecca and has an outstanding Art Museum called Pinocoteca di Brera. The Brera is packed with masterpieces:
St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria
Gentile Bellini and Giovanni Bellini
Lamentation over the Dead Christ
When you visit the Pinocoteca at the Brera Museum you may want to get an audio guide.
The museum was founded in 1799 and was transformed into a Napoleonic museum in 1809.
The Kiss by Francesco Hayez is one of my favorite paintings in the museum.
“The canvas was shown at the Brera Exhibition of 1859 which was held a few months after the entry of Victor Emanuel II and Napoleon III into Milan, celebrated the successful conclusion of the struggles of the Risorgimento. It did not enter the Pinacoteca until 1886, as a legacy from Alfonso Maria Visconti, who had commissioned the picture.
It is one of the emblematic images of the Pinacoteca and perhaps the most widely reproduced Italian painting of the whole of the 19th century. It was created with the aim of symbolizing the love of the motherland and thirst for life on the part of the young nation that had emerged from the Second War of Independence and which now placed so many hopes in its new rulers. It proved an immediate and resounding success both for its patriotic values and for the medieval inspiration of the subject, typical of the Romantic taste of the time. The the public was enthusiastic about the daring kiss but also recognized the patriotic message enshrined in the colors: the red stockings, green lapel on the cloak and blue and white gown allude to the flags of Italy and France.” Brera Website
The Napoleon I statue by Canova stands in the center of the courtyard. The museum is nestled in a 17th century palace that was originally a Jesuit college.
Most of the artwork in the Brera is from Lombardy and the Venato. The building is also the home of the Accademia di Belle Arti and the Brera Library. The Pinacoteca di Brera has an outstanding collection of paintings, from ancient to modern. Pinacoteca is famous for its large canvases by Piero della Francesca, Giovanni Bellini, Mantegna, Raphael, Tintoretto, and Caravaggio. Also, its collection of 19th century paintings is small but full of important pieces by Francesco Hayez, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Giovanni Segantini, Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo and Medardo Rosso. The collection of modern art comes largely from the Jesi collection.
Much of the museum had to be rebuilt because it was devastated by World War II bombs. Magnificent works of art by Bellini, Montegna, Caravaggio and Raphael will tantalize your visual senses.
The Marriage of the Virgin
Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael)
Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi)
Madonna and Child with Saints, Angels and Federico da Montefeltro (San Bernardino Altarpiece)
Piero della Francesca
Discovery of the Body of Saint Mark
Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti)
This church is an outstanding example of Flamboyant Gothic architecture and measures 479 feet long by 284 feet wide. The massive Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, which the Milanese call just “Il Duomo” is among the world’s largest (it holds up to 40,000 people). It was begun in the 14th century, but its façade was not completed until the early 1800s, under Napoleon. The roof is topped by 135 delicately carved stone pinnacles and the exterior is decorated with 2,245 marble statues. The dim interior, in striking contrast to the brilliant and richly patterned exterior, makes a powerful impression with its 52 gigantic pillars. The stained-glass windows in the nave (mostly 15th-16th centuries) are the largest in the world; the earliest are in the south aisle.
Highlights include the seven-branched bronze candelabrum by Nicholas of Verdun (c. 1200) in the north transept, the 16th-century tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici, and the jeweled gold reliquary of San Carlo Borromeo in the octagonal Borromeo Chapel leading off the crypt.
The tomb of San Carlo Borromeo is in the crypt; he was the cardinal of Milan. Behind the high altar, the choir has deeply carved panels, and misericords under the seats.
A golden Madonna surmounts the highest spire that was cast in copper by Giuseppe Bibi in 1774. The central tower is 354 feet high and offers a breathtaking view of Milan. The mountains are visible on a clear day.
After you climb to the top of the Duomo, relax at a table in the Piazza del Duomo. It is a great place for people-watching and admiring the 135 spires and elaborate statues that adorn the façade of the magnificent Gothic Cathedral. At one of the local restaurants, savor your Risotto alla Milanese, Ossobucco or breaded Milanese veal cutlet as you gaze at the stylish fashionistas in the square.
The Galleria is in the heart of Milan’s centro storico and is close to several of the city’s major attractions. Take a walk on the roof. The Galleria recently opened a new Highline walkway on its rooftop that stretches 820 feet from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala. It can be accessed via two high-speed elevators that are located inside the courtyard at Via Silvio Pellico 2. The rooftop walk is open Monday through Friday from 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. On weekends, the Highline is open from 12:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. The elevator costs €12 per person.
Check out the architecturally stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an ornate shopping arcade with a star-studded list of luxury emporiums, international chain and department stores, and trendy gourmet eateries.
Conclude your afternoon of site seeing with a shopping spree at Milan’s famous glass-enclosed shopping Galleria. Visit the elegant Prada boutique www.prada.com or buy a sophisticated Borsalino hat www.borsalino.com in their historic shop. Before you leave the Galleria, it is customary to step on the genitals of the mosaic “Taurus the Bull” on the floor of the Galleria for good luck.
For a different Vino con Vista than you’ll find at the Galleria area, set your sites on La Terrazza on Via Palestro to enjoy an evening of fine food and wine overlooking the public gardens. Try some regional specialties like Tortelli di Zucca, Pizzaccheri alla Valtellinese or Cottoletta alla Milanese.
Make plans to visit the Sforza Castle, a medieval fortress and ancient residence of the dukes of Milan, that now houses several museums and important art collections. It’s was one of the largest fortresses in Europe and it’s located along the largest park in Milan, the Sempione Park.
Sforza Castle has seen many eras of complex invasions, sieges, and renovations. Built in the 1450s by Francesco Sforza, it is one of the few remnants of the 14th century citadels. However, before it was a castle or a residential quarter of the notable rulers, it had been a Visconti fortress with impeccable defense systems with high walls and towers. It was on the ruins of this fortress that Sforza built the Sforza Castle. The castle is the home of several important museums with artifacts documenting the history of Milan.
These include the final piece of Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta (Unfinished Pieta).
From the Castle you can see the Arch of Peace, one of the symbols of the city, commissioned by from Napoleon to Luigi Cagnola in 1806.
To learn more about Milan and Northern Italy, read www.vino-con-vista.com Travel Guides.