Santa Maria delle Grazie

January 18, 2011 / Places
Milan, Lombardia

Peculiar church, this one. It looks like someone took the nave from one church and the apse from another, and tacked them on to one another. And in a way, that’s exactly what happened.

The Dominican friars commissioned an architect, a certain Solari, to build the church. He got to work but for reasons unknown was still at it thirty years later, too long for the hopping mid-15th century Milan, Renaissance in full swing. The duke of Milan decided to take matters into his own hands and called in Bramante, (the parsley of Italian renaissance architects.. he’s everywhere).

Bramante gave the church a face-lift (re-did the façade) and touched up the apse at the rear. Of course this being classic Bramante work, the fact that the church is part Gothic and part Romanesque works out perfectly in this case, something that would have given most other architects of the time cold sweat.

The poor duke was deposed before Bramante was able to finish, and so the church got its few final bits at yet another time. To make matters even more convoluted, it is worth mentioning that what we see now is the church looking much like it did for many centuries, but in version 2.0. This because it was completely rebuilt after WWII after taking a direct hit from an airstrike. (Miraculously, daVinci’s “Last Supper” in the refectory attached to the church came out “unscathed”.. read more in our previous note here).


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

9 Responses to “Santa Maria delle Grazie”

  1. I love the way you write. Very interesting article. I was just in Milan but missed this church. Ahhh there are so many!!
    Rita Jacoby

  2. Lonnie Troll

    Love the story. Since I joined the Italian Geneology Group, I know more and seen more of Italy right here at my computer.

  3. Ah, this is so beautiful. I have arrived to that door twice hoping to see the Last Supper and never managed because it was full booked. Next time I will get prepared!

  4. Margaretlb

    I haven’t had the pleasure yet to visit Milan and see this church and The Last Supper – but the church certainly looks hideous, has a convoluted building history, it’s own resurection story and a “how much is really Leonardo” masterpiece. Poor luck all around. Nonetheless, a must see and I hope to be able to some day. Thanks for a great Note!

  5. Stef

    It’s still possible to get in once you are in Milan, just book a guided tour with one of the tour companies (this comes at a cost though).

  6. Gian Banchero

    Yep, when I was living in Milano it was impossible to enter the church without a reservation, I tried three times!!! But, across the street is a bookstore where I found a great cookbook with over a hundred Nutella recipes… It’s hard to go wrong in Italy.

  7. Marisela Perdomo

    Deseo reservar 2 entradas para visitar la ultima Cena de Leonardo Da Vinci y la iglesia, por supuesto.
    Estare en Milan el domingo 24 de abril . No me importa la hora.
    Les agradezco informenme si pueden hacerme dicha reserva.
    Marisela Perdomo
    Enriqueta ca├▒ete


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