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.
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.
(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.