Sant'Ambrogio

The wanderer, the explorer, the saint

Sunday morning in Milan, 08.30 am. The city awakens in this very moment. Shops and cafes are opening, people jogging or walking their dogs. I have been wandering for 2 hours, so far.

When I left my bed, this morning, it was 6.25 am. I sat on the bed and contemplated the sun light glowing over the curtain of my windows. Then, I went out.

Morning walks in Milan can be either straight or tortuous, according to one’s preference and willingness to walk. I decided for the tortuous one and refused to study the map in advance. I felt like wandering today, simply on the base of my intuition.

Coming from via Marco D’Oggiono (a Milanese painter, Leonardo da Vinci’s student, who lived in Milan from 1475 to 1530), I turned into Corso di Porta Genova. I headed north to Piazza Resistenza Partigiana and, after a few minutes, turned left into via Giuseppe Sapeto a small, deserted street.

Giuseppe Sapeto (1811 – 1895) was an Italian priest and explorer. He belonged to the Religious Order of San Lazzaro mendicante, explored the shores of Mar Rosso and helped the Italian Government to expand globally, in Africa in particular. Countries such as Eritrea and Abissinia fell under the control of the Italian Empire, at that time.

From via Sapeto, turning left, I entered via San Vincenzo where I turned left again and stopped in front of the beautiful San Vincenzo in Prato:  one of the oldest and best-preserved Milanese PaleoChristian churches. The exterior of the building is made of brown bricks, with small windows and iron doors. The interior is sober and dark, devoid of any redundancy or ostentation.

King Desiderio, the last Longbard monarch, built the original Basilica in 770 A.D. dedicating it to Virgin Mary. After the relics of Saint Vincenzo, Saint Quirino, Saint Nicomede and Saint Abundius were buried into the church’s crypt it changed its name in San Vincenzo in “Prato” (the italian word for meadow), after the name of a nearby farm.

348_lmd80-00348_02

Picture Courtesy of: Lombardia Beni Culturali

The church enlarged during the IXth and XIth centuries, to evolve into a Benedictine monastery and, eventually, turned into a parish in 1598. It remained so for almost two hundred years until 1797, when an edict of Napoleon confiscated all the Church’s estates in Italy. The building then was employed as a stable and, later, as a chemical laboratory, the belfry turning out a very good chimney.

Finally, in 1889-90 the Italian Government managed to buy the property again, appointing Accademia di Brera for its restoration. In the Nineties, a final restoration brought the Basilica to the actual state. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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Picture Courtesy of: Medioevo.org

Further readings on San Vincenzo in Prato:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Vincenzo_in_Prato

http://www.lombardiabeniculturali.it/architetture/schede/LMD80-00348/

http://www.medioevo.org/artemedievale/Pages/Lombardia/SanVincenzoaMilano.html

http://www.sanvincenzoinprato.it/storico.htm

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