Church of the Holy Sepulcher

After more than fifty years, the Crypt of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro) has recently been opened to the public and can be visited as part of your excursion in Milan. This church is one of the oldest in the city and contains outstanding masterpieces.

The church was founded in the year 1030 and was initially dedicated to the Holy Trinity.


On 15 July 1100, at the culminating moment of the Crusades, the Archbishop of Milan Anselmo da Bovisio whilst celebrating an anniversary of the participation of the Lombards in the 1st Crusade and being the 2nd Crusade under preparation, changed its name to Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church was then rebuilt to resemble the Temple of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

It is presumed that at that place in Roman times was located the Roman forum. This could explain why the floor of its crypt is covered with Roman tiles.


Leonardo da Vinci believed that it was at the location of this church that the centre of the old city was. This, because that would be the place where the two main Roman streets (the Decumana and the Cardo Maximus) would cross in a "golden ratio", so dear to Leonardo himself who identified it as a symbol of perfection.


In Leonardo da Vinci’s Atlantic Code, kept in the Ambrosian Library, on a map of "Mediolanum" (Roman denomination of Milan) this crossing of Roman streets is located right where now the Crypt is located.


In the lower part of the church, is located a sarcophagus of the 4th century was destined to collect relics of the Holy Land (such as the land of Jerusalem or the hair of Mary Magdalene) brought to Milan by Lombard crusaders.
The crypt was the preferred place of prayer of Carlo Borromeo (the famous counter-reformer of the Catholic Church), cardinal of Milan in the mid-sixteenth century when the church was used as the seat of the Order of the Oblates. In front of the sarcophagus there is a statue of Carlo Borromeo himself praying.


In the upper part of the church on the left of the altar, well preserved and in baroque style, there is a sculptural group remembering "The Last Supper".


In 1928, the church was acquired by the Ambrosian Library and ceased to exist as a parish.


A walk through the ancient Roman pavement that surrounds the old church conveys a unique sense of historical atmosphere.

 

We recommend not to miss this church as part of a city tour of Milan.