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Bill Thayer

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The church of Sant' Ambrogio

The brick façade of a church with a long open courtyard in front of it. It is a view of the church of S. Ambrogio in Milan, Italy.

The forecourt shows the architect's great mastery of space: in an unprepossessing low façade, a small door: as you enter and walk two steps down, this space, although completely closed in, greets you with an extraordinary feel of

o   p   e   n   i   n   g      u   p

on either side of you.


[image ALT: small section of a wall, inset with about 3 dozen fragmentary ancient inscriptions]

The inscriptions: into the brick walls behind the southern arcades, on the right side in this view, maybe sixty or seventy inscriptions, most of them just fragments, have been inset. Some of them are of outstanding interest, including two in particular: an almost unique lapidary witness to the career of Pliny the Younger; and a 3c tombstone, apparently of an Alexandrian Jew, in misspelled Latin — but incised with a menorah.
[ 3 pages, 3 photos ]


[image ALT: part of a brick arcade showing a stone column with a carved capital]

The deeply carved capitals are particularly attractive and diverse and link Late Antiquity with the Middle Ages: my page is just a small gallery of photos.
[ 1 page, 12 photos ]


[image ALT: mosaic of a saint on a gold background]

The chapel of St. Victor (Sacello di San Vittore in Ciel d'Oro), almost invisibly tucked away at the end of the S aisle, is a vaulted funerary chapel built in the church cemetery in the 4c, and lined sometime in the 5c with wonderful mosaics, beautifully restored in the 1980s. The representation of St. Ambrose must be from living memory.
[ 2 pages, 3 photos ]


[image ALT: the mitred head of a mummy]

The crypt contains the bodies of the 3c saints Gervase and Protase, found by Bishop Ambrose about 150 years after they died. Ambrose died in 397: about 450 more years passed and his body was placed with theirs, and the church reconsecrated in his honor. The three saints can still be seen in a glass case under the main altar.
[ 1 page, 1 photo ]


[image ALT: zzz]

The Tomb of Stilicho is a mystery, like the man himself.
[ 1 page, 5 photos + close-ups ]

There's a good deal more to this church. It's all coming. . . . One thing that won't be coming, unfortunately, is good pictures of the outside of the church, or of the famous altar frontal: for those, see the sites below.


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SIte updated: 16 Jan 03