The resting-place of Milan’s patron saint, Sant’Ambrogio (St. Ambrose) is an airy and attractive Romanesque church to the west of the city centre.
Ambrose became bishop of Milan in 374. He was originally more of a diplomat than a churchman, famed for his oratory. Ambrose came to wield considerable political power and was a crucial figure in the development of the Christian church.
Ambrose founded the church which bears his name in 379; the building was rebuilt and added to on several occasions. The main parts of the church today date from the 11th century. There is a sunny courtyard in front of the church, from which you can admire the church’s two belltowers.
Interesting examples of religious art can be seen in the side chapels – but watch out for the slippery marble steps up to these. One of the oldest things in the church is the sarcophagus incorporated into a later pulpit. Dating to around 385, the large marble memorial was probably dedicated to a Roman military official. The striking Romanesque pulpit on top dates to 1080.
St. Ambrose himself was buried here; he lies in state in the crypt, in a silver and crystal reliquary. Dressed in white robes, St. Ambrose is flanked by two martyrs clad in red.
Attached to the church, the Tesoro di Sant’Ambrogio – the ‘treasury’ – is a small museum displaying pieces of mosaic and relics from the church’s long history.
The Church of Sant’Ambrogio is in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, close to the Metro station of the same name (Metro line 2). It’s a short walk from Santa Maria delle Grazie and Leonardo’s Last Supper. The church is free to enter, but the small museum, the Tesoro di Sant’Ambrogio (closed Monday mornings) has a small charge for admission.
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