There is a church in Milan known by everybody, both locals and tourists. Nope, it is not the Duomo, but a basilica in Corso Magenta. It is Santa Maria delle Grazie, and its fame is mainly due to Leonardo’s masterpiece treasured within its walls: the Last Supper. We all have in mind this impressive painting; few, however, are aware of the other church treasure, Bramante’s cloister known as the Chiostro delle Rane, that is to say the Cloister of the Frogs.
Well: it is time for you to know it!
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Santa Maria delle Grazie overlooks Corso Magenta with its impressive and refined look.
In 1980, it was included in the World Heritage List as one of the top exponents of the Renaissance style.
In fact, the first red bricks were laid in 1460, when Count Gaspare Vimercati, commander of Francesco Sforza’s militia, decided to donate to the Dominican order a chapel with a fresco portraying the Virgin Lady and, for this reason, called “delle Grazie”. Vimercati’s intentions were simple and straightforward: to create a church and a convent from the chapel.
The church was finished in 1482, but modified by Ludovico il Moro, who commissioned Bramante to make it bigger. He added two wide semi-circular apses, a cupola surrounded by colonnades, a refectory and the cloister.
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Enter the church and visit it entirely. On both sides, there are seven squared chapels, all made by Solari except the last one, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and starting point for the construction of the Church.
Solari is the one who built the library that, together with the Capitolo and Locutorio, overlooks the porch.
The south side is entirely occupied by the refectory that houses Leonardo’s Last Supper and that can be visited only by booking a visit.
Enter the church: enjoy its calm and silence, observe the change of hues between the sombre aisle and the bright dome.
When facing the altar, look to your left. You’ll notice a small door. Open it and leave the church: you’ll end up, finally, in the Chiostro.
The cloister has a squared, geometric shape, softened by the bushes and by their circular and sinuous lines.
Sit back for a moment on one of the walls between the columns of the portico: in front of you, there is the fountain from which the name of the cloister derives. As a matter of fact, the fountain is adorned with four statues of frogs, from which water flows.
The fountain is round as well as the bushes surrounding it: this shape helps to increase the structure dynamism and to relax our spirits, so little at ease with a structured, squared space.
The fountain and the cloister were both projected and built by Bramante.
We need to thank him, thus, for the peaceful atmosphere felt when entering it.
The cloister seems the ideal place to be when you are in need of solitude, whether it is to read a book or to think about the meaning of life.
Credits preview photo: http://bit.ly/1RZcB0L