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Monday, March 21, 2011

Milan: The Chiesa Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro

San Satiro tucked away on Via Torino near the Duomo.

I must tell you about this church in Milan. I'm fascinated by this! The Chiesa Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro, commonly known just as San Satiro, which is just south of the Duomo in Milan. Dating back to the 800s, the church was renovated in the second half of the 1400s by Bramante, and it has one very unusual feature. I read this about it:

San Satiro

by GB
Even for an architect such as Bramante, sometimes bureaucracy just gets in your way.

You’ve been commissioned by Milan’s Duke Sforza to rebuild the church of San Satiro. (Saint Satyrus was the brother and confessor of Saints Marcellina and Ambrose, the latter the patron Saint of Milan.) You’ve gotten the go-ahead from the religious authorities. It’s all systems go, funds in place….

… and then the town council construction board decides to ix-nay permission for the apse. The apse! Of all things, how absurd! How can you have a church without an apse!?


The plan shows the original design with minimal, almost none in fact, space for an apse.


We can imagine Bramante calling on the Duke asking him to exert some pressure on the building permit people. No luck… testimony to the rule-observing, law-abiding Lombards that not even the Duke could get them to budge.

And so it was, no apse. Well, Bramante was certainly not one to back down from even a major mishap, so he decided to apply some of the high-falutin’ jiggery-pokery that was all the rage among intellectuals and mathematicians of the time… perspective.

Thanks to bureaucracy and permits not granted, we can enjoy one of the first instances of perspective trompe l’oeil. You get a visual “depth” of about thirty feet… in barely three feet of space.

So there, paper pushers!

-- Written by GB (see bio), Editor, Italian Notebook.



From the side angle, in the photo above, we can see how the effect is created, and from straight ahead, photo below, the wonderful illusion the worshippers see. Bramante certainly got the last laugh with this work, creating an apse unlike any other!

Chiesa Santa Maria Presso di San Satiro (St. Mary Staying with St. Satyrus); San Satiro

Via Torino (at Via Speronari), Milan
Metro: Duomo or Missori
Hours: Daily 9am-noon and 2:30-6pm
Cost: Free admission
exterior photo TripAdvisor; other photos Italian Notebook

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