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Time & Space Travels
MILANO
Romanic church of Saint Ambrogio


The basilica of S. Ambrogio in Milan was built around the year 380 by the will of Bishop Ambrogio.

The story of Bishop Ambrogio is emblematic of the times in which he lived and seems to precede those hasty and sudden habits attributed to the Milanese people.

The young Ambrogio, born in Treviri in the 339, was elected bishop in 373.

He was in Milan as an imperial official, he had nothing to do with either the Arian faction or the Catholic who clashed in Milan at the time: for this reason he was elected bishop. Nobody seems interested in the fact that the bishop has not yet been baptized: he will be baptized one week after his election.

He says about himself: 'Taken from the courts of the magistracy and became a bishop, I began to teach what I had not learned either. So it happened to me to teach before learning. So I had to learn and at the same time teach '..

The basilica took its current appearance around the year 1090 and is characterized by a quadriportico at the entrance that served as a meeting place..

At that time most of the sculptural decorations date back (or should date back). The basilica has undergone two heavy restorations: one in 1630 by cardinal Borromeo and another between 1858 and 1881.

In the first one intervened in the capitals of the four-sided portico (it dates back to this period certainly the capital with sireniform figures on the northern side of the quadriportico).

In the nineteenth century, however, it was decided to 'bring the basilica back to its origins' by removing all the non-Romanesque elements and proceeding to the 'Romanesque reconstruction' of many capitals. It is therefore difficult to say which capitals are really medieval and which are actually fakes (surely made with the best intentions ...)

Inside the basilica, in addition to the sculptural works, stands out the ciborium in terracotta (original) and the ambo built from a late-Roman sarcophagus, the so-called sarcophagus of Stilicho.

The bronze snake, emperor Basil II's gift in 1007, is also beautiful. It represents the Nehustan, the bronze serpent that God commands Moses to forge and place it in view of the people. Anyone who had been bitten by poisonous snakes could only be saved by looking at the serpent of Moses..

Among so many suggestions, authentic works or vintage fakes, could a bicaudata siren be missing?

And indeed there is: beautiful and discreet, almost hidden on one side of the ambo.

Certainly not fake, patient witness of complicated times.