Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio Milano. Built between 379 and 386 by the bishop of Milan Ambrogio. It was built in an area where Christians who were martyred by Roman persecution had been buried. For this reason it was dedicated to the martyrs and was called Basilica Martyrum. Sant’Ambrogio himself was buried in 397 and since then changed his name, assuming the current one. The current basilica scrupulously respects the plan of this early Christian basilica. Three apsidal naves, without transept, with quadriportico in front.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio Milano – History
In 784 the archbishop of Milan Pietro founded a Benedictine abbey, approved by Charlemagne in 789. To this was added a rectory that was to serve the needs of the lay community of the city. The bishop Angilbert II had the great apse added, preceded by a room dominated by a barrel vault. In the same period, the apse basin was decorated with a large mosaic that still exists. The Redeemer enthroned between the martyrs Protasio and Gervasio and with the archangels Michele and Gabriele, accompanied by two episodes of the life of Sant’Ambrogio. The right bell tower dates back to this period, inspired by that of the Basilica of San Pietro in Rome.
At the ciborium were added four gables with tympanum, decorated with stuccoes in the tenth century and still excellently preserved. Under the ciborium the Altar of Sant’Ambrogio was placed. A masterpiece of Carolingian jewelery, in gold, silver, precious stones and enamels.
The basilica took its definitive appearance between 1088 and 1099, when, driven by Bishop Anselm III of Rho, it was radically reconstructed according to Romanesque architecture.
Between 1128 and 1144 the second bell tower was erected, the upper one on the left of the facade, called the canons. The tiburium was added towards the end of the twelfth century with the particular external conformation characterized by galleries with arches on two overlapping registers.
The church was heavily hit by the Anglo-American bombing raids of 1943 which destroyed above all the outer part of the portico, damaging the dome of the basilica, the mosaic behind the altar and other external parts of the church. In the following years the restoration works that brought the basilica back to its ancient splendor began in the 1950s.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio Milano – Architecture
The construction material is poor. Mainly bricks of different colors, stone and white plaster and the origin is local. Compared to the original paleochristian church of the fourth century, the new basilica of the eleventh century carefully inherited the plant. Three apsidal naves without transept with quadriportico in front. The internal plan of the basilica is longitudinal and has the same dimensions as the front porch.
The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio appears today as an isolated model case for the Lombard Romanesque style. Certainly it was an example for the future developments of Romanesque architecture in the area of Lombard influence that then surpassed today’s regional boundaries, including parts of Emilia and Piedmont.
Although linked to the tradition of the 4th century basilica on which it was built, Sant’Ambrogio is the expression of an intense architectural renewal, especially in the conception of lighting and space. On the one hand, in fact, the light comes mainly from the large windows of the facade, while the women’s galleries block its side passage. The resulting effect is the accentuation of the structural masses, especially at the bottom, where the shade is greater. On the other hand, space is no longer conceived in the paleochristian way, in a unitary and mystical way, but human and rational.
Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio Milano – Address
Piazza Sant’Ambrogio 15 – Milano
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