S. Maria presso S. Satiro

Back of S.Maria presso presso S.Satiro

Back of S.Maria presso S.Satiro

Although nothing indicates that Leonardo da Vinci, ever worked on Santa Maria presso San Satiro, the church helps shed some light on the context in which he lived and worked. The wealth and industry of Milan attracted some of the greatest Renaissance artists from all over Italy. Included in their legacy is this little jewel of a church, which has a habit of going unnoticed despite its central location. In 1478, Donato Bramante was asked to work on the reconstruction of the small 9th century church with a Greek cross plan founded by archbishop Ansperto. However, the project was hindered by a seemingly insurmountable problem: the alleys surrounding the church were densely populated by metal workers, arms manufacturers and goldsmiths as can still be seen from the street names that have remained unchanged since the middle ages. The businesses and workshops exploited every inch at their disposal leaving little space for further construction. By demolishing the houses on either side, enough room was created to construct the transept and thus form a T, yet plans for the apse had to be dropped. This is where the genius of Bramante came in to play. The architect created the illusion of an apse of equal length to the nave directly behind the main alter. The trompe l'oeil relies on a fake presbytery with three bays, made using a painted terracotta relief. The effect upon entering the church is exactly the one desired by Bramante, although the trick becomes evident once you look closer.

Did you know that?

At the altar is a fresco from 13th century depicting the Madonna with Child, which originally was on the outside of the early church. Legend has it that in 1242 a youth stabbed the image of Christ causing blood to gush forth from the fresco. The miraculous image became an object of pilgrimage. Still today the guilty dagger is safely guarded on the premises.