San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore

May 14, 2014 / Places
Milano, Lombardia

Here’s another note on Milan, the beautiful city that is the setting of our recently published gastronomic murder mystery, The Revenge of the Milanese Butcher! The notes coming your way over the next few weeks are all related to the book in one way or another. We hope you enjoy them!

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore in Milan was the church attached to one of the most important monasteries in Milan. Given that all the nuns were from rich and powerful Milanese families, this became the most powerful closed order of Benedictine nuns. Due to its high profile status, this incredibly decorated church was at the center of much Milanese political intrigue back in 16th and 17th centuries.


Separating the nuns in clausura was a wall, only a few meters high, so the front and back areas of the church were open to one another – all the better to hear the nuns sing. A little side door takes you to the back area where the nuns would have been.

Closer view of the peep hole from the nun's hall seen on the right, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
Side door leading from church to clolistered nun's hall

The entire church was frescoed by the scuola lombarda of the 1500s for over half a century, yet no one is quite sure who ordered and paid for the artwork.

By 1506 a second cycle of artwork was commissioned – this time it’s known by whom: Alessandro, son of Giovanni Bentivoglio, signore di Bologna married to Ippolita Sforza, who became an important political figure in Milan. Bentivoglio also led brilliant social life and this was documented by frescos of Bernardino Luini who painted his illustrious (powerful) patrons in the church area where the public could sit.


By 1532 the front church was a gallery of portrait frescos of both Sforza and Bentivoglio family members.

Opening at the right of the church's altar where cloistered nuns would receive Holy Communion, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
Peep hole on the cloistered nun's side, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan
Peep hole to the left of the alter, church side, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan

(Btw, in the center of the two previous photos – nuns side and general public’s side – is a peephole… a requirement for any self-respecting locus of political intrigue.)

Finally, the third cycle of frescos were added in 1578, and include work by Caravaggio’s maestro, the Venetian Simone Peterzano.

Remember… San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore and other unique places, history and aspects about Milan in our gastronomic murder mystery The Revenge of the Milanese Butcher, ItalianNotebook Press, available on Amazon.

Upper balconies in the hall of the cloistered nuns of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggio, Milan


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

4 Responses to “San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore”

  1. Joan Schmelzle

    Thanks–an enjoyable post and one that backs up the fact that this site/sight has already been added to my hoped-for stop in Milan in 2015. It is one I have read about and never visited.

  2. Bob Blesse

    Thanks, GB, lovely images! I’m a good way through the book now and this post gives some interesting historical context. I’m enjoying the book, have just gotten to the part where they discover the canal beneath the restaurant. All best! Bob

  3. Stef Smulders

    Thx for the background info GB!
    On the MilanArounder website you’ll find a virtual tour of the church! When you visit in spring there regularly are concerts and visiting in summer there are special Thursday evening openings till 10pm accompanied by Renaissance and Baroque music.
    This is info taken from my Milan & More app, free to download from iTunes, also for Android. See

  4. Great article! San Maurizio is one of the many hidden jewells in Milan, that rushed tourists so often ignored. Sad enough, since it is located only 10 minutes walking distance from Santa Maria delle Grazie and the the Last Supper!
    Other great churches that are definitely worth visiting nearby are San Satiro, displaying an incredible trompe-l’œil from Bramante, San Lorenzo, one of the oldest and most fascinating churches in Milan, and sant’Eustorgio, with its beautiful Portinari chapel. Here you can get more insights about these sights:


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