Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio / Churches

Unique by the star atop its campanile, the basilica shelters the relics of the Three Magi

Located within a striking distance from the Diocesan Museum, the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio is mostly known as the ancient burial place of the Three Kings (or Three Magi) that traveled to Bethlehem to praise the birth of Jesus. The tombs were brought to the city from Constantinople by order of Eustorgius I (in the year 344) who, back then, filled the position of bishop of Milan. It is to him that the nowadays basilica is dedicated. The tombs of the magi have been for a long time the reason why the basilica stood out as a major pilgrimage destination for travelers from north heading for Rome or for Jerusalem. Another interesting historical note is it was also the place where witches were burned on a stake during the Middle Ages.

The church was built in the 4th century, but it was repeatedly restored, such that few of the original architectural elements remain. The first series of reconstruction works was commissioned by the Dominican order after the 13th century, not to mention the changes underwent in the 18th century (for instance, the dome was built in 1619, and the facade finished no sooner than the 19th century).

Tourists who nowadays visit the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio look for highlights like the relics of the Three Magi (parts of these were brought back to the Milanese church in the early 20th century, after a period of 8 centuries when they had been moved to Cologne in view of safekeeping and sheltering against the incursions led by Frederick I Barbarossa). The remains rest in the altar of the Three Kings. But there’s also plenty to see in terms of artworks. Thus, the Portinari Chapel, built between 1462 and 1468 in an exquisite Renaissance style, draws the attention. Vincenzo Foppa’s frescoes surely help the chapel stand out in sharp relief. But this is but one of the several chapels commissioned by the wealthy Milanese families since the 1300s on. Also notable in this respect are the chapels containing tombs of members of the Visconti family, embellished with friezes created, in all likelihood, by pupils of Giotto.

A notable, quite unique feature of the basilica, is atop its campanile there is placed a star instead of a cross (as it is customary in Christendom), in order to indicate from a distance the church shelters the ancient tombs of the Three Kings.

Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio (Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio)
1, Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, 20122, Milan, Italy
0039 02 58101583
0039 02 89400589

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