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Milan: mysteries and unusual itineraries between reality and legend

Milan: mysteries and unusual itineraries between reality and legend

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Milan: mysteries and unusual itineraries between reality and legend

219 pagine
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Jun 11, 2015


Universally recognised as an industrious city, an important centre of finance and fashion, Milan has some aspects not very known, but equally fascinating. Within the texture of the fabric of the city and the folds of the frenetic streets, the churches and the ancient palaces tell about a millenary story. A story that began with thick woods where there were Celtic villages and then became mighty Roman structures and later on gorgeous Renaissance villas. And there are voices that tell of saints, of famous people, but also of murderers, legends and ghosts. A trip to discover the disappeared Navigli (waterways), the secrets that conceal themselves in famous places as the Duomo (Cathedral) and the Castello Sforzesco (Castle), the squares where the witches were burnt, the symbols left by Templars and Freemasons. A guide that will accompany the tourists and discerning readers to discover a city rich in history, architecture and curiosities.
Jun 11, 2015

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Milan - William Facchinetti Kerdudo


mysteries and unusual itineraries

between reality and legend


William Facchinetti Kerdudo


William Facchinetti Kerdudo

Cathedral images

CC: Christopher John, Beate Meier and Stew Dean

CC: licence Creative Commons Attribution_ShareAlike 4.0

Ebook first edition: 2015

Copyright ©2015 Polaris

ISBN 9788860591593

Casa Editrice Polaris

Table of Contents

A journey into history

... Roman amphitheatre and Antiquarium

... Imperial palace, circus and thermal baths

... Roman theatre and forum

The secrets of the cathedral

... The cathedral

... On top of Milan

Town center

... Itinerary n° 1

... Itinerary n° 2

... Itinerary n° 3

Sforza Castle

... The secrets of the museum

... The park

Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan

The devil, the miraculous waters and the Ca’ Granda

San Lorenzo’s, Sant’Eustorgio’s, the witches e the black death

Sant’Ambrogio and the Templars

Tombs, freemasons and crusaders

Porta Venezia, Brera and the dragons

Milan’s ghosts

Mysteries and curiosities in short

A journey into history

When people talks about Milan, they think at once of people walking always in a hurry and very busy. For many of them Milan means Stock Exchange and Fashion. Milan is also da bere (to be enjoyed) with all its ‘happy hours’ premises situated in the naviglio area and its ‘night life’ in Corso Como.

Milan is living the present time with restrain because tends always towards the future. It seems difficult to turn the head backwards and to think of the past, but hidden by modern buildings, the town offers evidence of its ancient history.

In this chapter, by means of an archaeological itinerary, I will bring you to discover a town that many people do not even know it exists, but that it’s worth to be seen.

>>> Google map ... Milan 1

Roman amphitheatre and Antiquarium

Imagine that we get into a ‘Time Machine’. After a jump back of almost twenty centuries, we will find ourselves in ‘Mediolanum’, the ancient Milan, a rather different and splendid town of the Roman Empire with its Imperial Palaces, a Forum, some Thermal Baths, an Amphitheatre and all of them surrounded by impressive town-walls.

That was a period in which thousands of town people and inhabitants of the neighbouring provinces gathered together to assist to the fights between gladiators and wild beasts. The size of the Amphitheatre of Mediolanum (third in dimension after the Coliseum of Rome and the Amphitheatre of Capua) was 155 meters long and 128 meters large. The internal arena (75 x 41 meters) was a little smaller than the actual and modern sports ground of San Siro Stadium (105 x 68 meters).

Coming back to the present time: what happened to the ancient Amphitheatre? Where was it situated? Unfortunately it has disappeared hundreds of years ago. Recently, thanks to the Department of Cultural Heritage, some of its foundations have been fortunately discovered. On the same place where it existed in the past (an area between Via De Amicis, Via Arena and ‘conca del Naviglio’), now there is an archaeological site (11.500 square meters). The Amphitheatre (dating between the Second and Third Cent. A.D.), after a period of great splendour, was destroyed in 539 A.D. during the uprising of Mediolanum’s people against the Goths (some texts report that its demolition happened in a previous time during Alarico’s siege in 402 A.D. or during the invasion from Attila in 452 A.D.).

At that time, it was custom use to build Amphitheatres outside the town-walls. The reason for it was to facilitate the flow of spectators, but at the same time, being not protected, it could result as a dangerous place to stay in. But on the other hand it could have been used as a refuge or an outpost by enemies in case of invasions.

From the Fifth century, the Coliseum of Mediolanum has had a period of decline and abandonment. In fact, Christianity substituted the existing Paganism in a predominant way, and prohibited the fightings between men, gladiators and wild beasts in the arena. Moreover because of serious economic crisis, gladiators and wild beasts were not any more available.

Starting from the Fifth cent., the Amphitheatre became a quarry. All the material was used to lay the foundation of the near Basilica of San Lorenzo and others buildings of the town.

Within the Archaeological site we can find the Amtiquarium A Levi Museum. In its two large halls are exhibited the archaeological finds and others objects belonging to different historical epochs. that were found during archaeological excavations.

During our journey amongst mysteries, curiosities and oddities we cannot miss two very interesting objects. The first one is a terra-cotta amphora from the IV cent. A.D. reutilised as a funerary urn. In the site that now is occupied by the near cloister of Sant’Eustorgio’s, once there was a vast necropolis (a great part of which is still to be unearthed). The empty amphora we can see in the Antiquarium has a large opening and contained a child’s corpse.

The second object is placed right in the centre of the second hall. It’s a funerary stele (discovered in 1650 in an area between Via Sforza and Corso di Porta Romana). It’s particularly interesting because, as a rare exception, it shows a gladiator. This stele of III cent. A.D. in fact represents a secutor (chaser) by the name Urbico. His place of origin was Florence and having only one name he was probably an ex-slave. Urbico died at the age of 22, after thirteen fights leaving widower his wife Lauricia and two young daughters Olimpia and Fortunanse.

The last phrase of the funerary inscription sounds like a curse. In fact it seems that Urbico, even though he had won his thirteenth fight, being only wounded he was put to death all the same.

The Italian translation of the last phrase of the inscription textually cites:

"Ti avverto, chiunque tu sia che uccide chi ha vinto.

I suoi tifosi terranno viva la sua memoria"

I advise you, whoever you are who kills the winner / his fans will keep alive his memory

Imperial palace, circus and thermal baths

Walking along Via Brisa (a road of Corso Magenta), we run into the ruins of the Imperial Palace (III cent. A.D.), wanted by Emperor Massimiliano as his residence. The few remains of that imposing building, that included many rooms and a private thermal bath, don’t give us the idea of how it really was before.

The Imperial palace was used until the X cent. A.D. and readapted many times up to the moment it was abandoned. It was curiously brought to light in 1943 by bombing during the last war.

The Second World War with its destructive impact had two opposite effects: rediscovered the Roman ruins of the Imperial palace, but at the same time destroyed the adjacent Gorani palace.

To day, of the historical Gorani palace remains only a tower that is one of the few medieval examples left in Milan. Unfortunately it’s in a very bad state of preservation.

Near the Imperial palace, along the east side of the town-walls (from Via Circo to Via Luini), there was the Circus (III cent. A.D.).

It was 470 meters long and 85 meters wide. It was used for horses and charts races and also for different events including hunting contests and gladiators’ fights.

What’s left of the Circus is the Ansperto’s tower that became the actual steeple belonging to San Maurizio of Monastero Maggiore. The tower was part of the carcere (lodgings for fighters and horses’ stables) and it can be seen visiting the garden of the Archaeological Museum.

The Museum entrance is in 15, Corso Magenta. The access is through a very suggestive court yard. There are grave stones and sarcophagus of Roman epoch placed against its walls. Amongst these archaeological finds, there is one worth to be noted because of its strange shape. It is thought to be a pedestal of the First or Second cent. A.D. that was reused as a basin for mixing dyes in the V-VI cent. AD and finally as a funerary urn in X cent. A.D. All these hypothesis, that haven’t been completely proved, bring to ask ourselves what in reality was the use of this structure made of marble with a large central cavity (and draining hole) together with four small circular cavities at the corners.

On the basin there are also some Latin inscriptions. The more curious one says:

reduc carpentum

bona nocte vade dormitum

That means: Take it into / the cart / Good night / go to sleep

Inside the Archaeological Museum there are archaeological finds of different epochs and belonging to different populations (pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Alemannian and Lombard) that have colonized Milan’s territory.

Certainly of great impact in the Museum it’s also the internal garden where it’s possible to admire the already mentioned quadrangular Ansperto’s tower (that takes its name from the Archbishop who, in the IX cent. A.D. had the tower incorporated into the church and transformed in a bell-tower); the remains of a domus that belonged to wealthy people and what remains of the ancient town-walls with a polygonal tower.

The domus was a nice country house but situated in a privileged position because it was both near Mediolanum centre and on ancient Novaria-Vercellae road. As I have already said, inside the garden it’s possible to admire also some remains of town-walls that go back to the III cent. A.D., and the polygonal tower that later on became a chapel of the contiguous monastery (San Maurizio’s was the seat of the most important Benedictine monastery for girls). Inside the tower, we can appreciate frescos of the XIII-XIV cent. A.D. and amongst those the one of Saint Francis that receives the stigmata.

- church of San Sepolcro -

Roman theatre and forum

Underneath the palace of the Stock Exchange the are the ruins of a Roman Theatre (about I cent. A.D.). Originally it had the capacity to house 7.000 spectators, a cavea 95 meters of diameter and a stage 60 meters long.

The few parts still visible are underneath Mezzanotte palace or Stock Exchange of Milan (6, Piazza Affari – the visit of the place is allowed only during special events like ‘F.A.I. Days).

In memory of the Ancient Theatre, in the district there are the names of two churches: San Vittore al Teatro (near Via Meravigli) and S.S Pietro and Lino (originally its name was San Petrus ad Linthea). In fact, linthea was the velarium (curtains) that were used during representations to protect spectators from the sun. In the theatre were played tragedies, comedies and also fights between gladiators took place, but these fights stopped when the Amphitheatre was built.

At this point it’s necessary to mention the history of the Stock Exchange and Piazza Affari, two symbols of modern Milan. ‘The Commerce Exchange’ was set up by Vice King Eugenio Napoleone, the 16th January 1808. The first seat was in a building of Via Monte di Pietà, but after one year it was moved to the Palace of Jurisconsults (in central Piazza Mercanti) where it stayed for almost a century (if we exclude the years from 1887 to 1890 in which, because of renovations, reunions took place at La Scala theatre. But thanks to a growing market it was needed larger premises for transactions and in 1901 was opened the new seat of the Stock Exchange in Broggi palace that faced Piazza Elittica (today’s Piazza Cordusio). Thirty years later, to architect Paolo Mezzanotte was commissioned what it would become the definitive seat of the new Stock Exchange of Milan (inaugurated in 1930). It was during excavations for building the palace that the remains of the ancient Roman Theatre were found. Fortunately for us, Mr. Mezzanotte wanted to keep them visible. Moreover, the basement was enriched and decorated with majolica designed by Gio Ponti. The main hall (called ‘the cries hall’) was at last furnished with the most important technical innovations of that time: many telephone lines and a ‘modern’ mechanical board for marking the prices exchanged by operators.

In the same place where now there is Santo Sepolcro’s (located in the homonym square) rises

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