Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro / Churches

The road from fake perspective to true architectural excellence

Located a short walking distance west of Il Duomo, the Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro, as it stands out today, was built between 1472 and 1482. Architecturally speaking, this small gem bears the mark of the century when it was constructed, sunken in the serenity offered by the Romanesque and Byzantine influences. Its main architect was Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, commissioned by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, but the most striking and back then innovative elements of the church are the work of Donato Bramante.

The ingenuity of Bramante still puzzles the contemporary tourist. We speak here of one of the first occurrences of the trompe d’oeil technique employed in the history of art. Bramante’s manipulation of the perspective is still appreciated: visitors, even if not entirely convinced about the genuineness of the proportions of the arches and columns behind the sacristy, are still dazzled by the effect, in particular when they realize such an optical illusion was realized no later than the turn of the 15th century.

On top of Bramante’s contribution, there are several other highlights to admire at Santa Maria presso San Satiro. Cappella della Pieta (the name derives from the terra-cotta Pieta which adorns it, a work from the 15th century also) is one of them. Keep in mind that a generous amount of the decorative patrimony of the church is now lost (or, in all cases, alienated). For instance, Borgognone’s frescos were moved to Pinacoteca di Brera. Imagine how these must have looked in the past, blending in perfectly with Bramante’s perspective game elements in the warm atmosphere infused by the optimist vibe of the gold and white paint of the interior!

Also keep in mind that the church assumed it present outline, as said, in the 15th century, but a former, even more ancient place of worship used to fill the site, it too dedicated to San Satiro (brother of Sant’Ambrogio, 4th century bishop of Milan), since 879.

Even if less spectacular than other prestigious places of worship in Milan, the Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro is a must visit for all holidaymakers of the city, either dainty art aficionados or not, since, due to Bramante’s contribution, it embodies one of the most important pages from the history of European art.

Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro (Chiesa Santa Maria presso San Satiro)
3, Via Speronari, 20123, Milan, Italy

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