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Art & History

Sightseeing in Milan: the church of San Vincenzo in Prato

News > Art & History | Sightseeing in Milan: the church of San Vincenzo in Prato

Many tourists come to visit Milan and are attracted just from one Milanese church: the Duomo. A masterpiece of the Gothic period, the Duomo and its big square is the most photographed church of the city. Every day and in every time tourists are teeming in Piazza del Duomo armed by their cameras shooting it, while others one make selfies by their smartphone stick to capture the moment.
In fact, on social network like Instagram, Duomo tagged photos are thousands and thousands and definitely it is one of the most popular monuments in Italy.

But in Milan there are so many churches that deserved a visit. Santa Maria di Garegnano, San Babila, Santa Maria di Caravaggio, just to mention a few.
The basilica of San Vincenzo in Prato is set in the center of Milan, very closed to Porta Genova. It’s a very important for the city because is one of oldest church in Milan.

From decline to the restorations

Sightseeing in Milan: the church of San Vincenzo in Prato


Dated at 859 AD, San Vincenzo in Prato is one of the oldest Romanesque buildings in Milan. The church represents an interesting example of the transition between the early Christian and the Romanesque style of the late eleventh century.

The church was an important Benedictine monastery at the beginning of the year One Thousand and it was very important in the Middle Ages. Then it began decay with the crisis of the monastery in 1500. In the eighteenth century San Vincenzo in Prato was desecrated and in the following centuries it was used as a military warehouse. In 1810 the structure was sold to a manufacturer of chemicals destroying the frescoes that decorated the interior.

Credits: By Paolobon140 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Between 1880 and 1890 the church was restored and the inner surface of the church was decorated with gouache decorations. Also a new tower and sacristy were built. Important restorations continued till a few decades ago, with whom the Eighteen Century decorations were eliminated and the floor was replaced. Special care has been taken to the crypt, one of the best examples of Italian crypt Romanesque.
Basilica di san Vincenzo in Prato in Milan

The church structure is clearly dated back to the early Christian period, between the ninth and eleventh centuries. San Vincenzo in Prato is structured by three naves, typical of the classic basilicas style.

Even after the restorations, the apse and the tympanum have been remained from original structure and both are adorned with Romanesque motifs and brick arches. There are frescoes like that of “Madonna del pianto”, dated from fifteenth century, brought from the church of S. Calocero and attributed to the school of Zavattari. In the right nave there is another fresco fragment carried by S. Calocero, the “Madonna dell’aiuto”. The altar contains the relics of martyrs brought to San Vincenzo between the ninth and eleventh century. It is curious that inside the altar there is an old well, whose waters were considered miraculous. The aisles are supported by capitals dating from various historical periods, from Roman times to the early Middle Ages.

The restorations continued until the mid-90s; it was decided to remove some Nineteenth Century frescoes that showed a fabrication of history and to simplify the high presbytery and its columns, leaving only the old walls.


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