MILAN – S. Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
THE BENEDICTINE CHURCH
The complex was founded in Lombard times, partially re-using ancient Roman edifices. Of these there remain a polygonal tower, a relic of the ancient Maximian walls, and a square one, originally part of the lost Hippodrome and later adopted as the church’s bell tower. The monastery is now home to Milan’s Archaeological Museum.
The construction began in 1503 on a design by Gian Giacomo Dolcebuono in collaboration with Giovanni Antonio Amadeo. The edifice was finished fifteen years later by Cristoforo Solari, divided into two parts: one for the congregation and one for the nuns. Until 1794 the latter were strongly forbidden to cross the dividing wall.
The interior has a vaulted nave separated by the divisory wall (the nuns followed the mass from behind a grating) and flanked by cross-vaulted chapels, which are surmounted by a serliana loggia. The most important artwork of the church is the cycle of frescoes from the 16th century covering the walls. The dividing wall has frescoes depicting the Life of San Maurizio by Bernardino Luini which flank an altarpiece with an Adoration of the Magi by Antonio Campi. The chapels in the congregation’s area are by Aurelio Luini, son of Bernardino, and his brothers. The counterfaçade has a fresco by Simone Peterzano (1573). In the right side Bernardino Luini also frescoed the Chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria (1530). Frescoes are also influenced by Forlivese school of art (Melozzo da Forlì and Marco Palmezzano).
The hall of the nuns is also completely painted. The partition wall, a work by Bernardino Luini of the thirties of the sixteenth century, presents images of Saint Catherine, Saint Agatha, the Marriage at Canaa, the Carrying of the Cross of Christ on the Cross and Christ died. On the vault of the hall of the nuns is depicted a starry sky, with God, the Evangelists, and angels. In the end there is the painting Ecce Homo.
The valuable pipe organ of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, built in 1554 by Gian Giacomo Antegnati, is located in the choir loft above the choir stalls, on the right side. It is contained in a wooden, richly carved case, and decorated by Francesco and Girolamo de’ Medici da Seregno. The present organ is a partial reconstruction of the original instrument by Gian Giacomo Antegnati.
A careful analysis of the surviving pipework revealed an important presence of pipes by G.G. Antegnati.
The console, re-built, is composed of a 50-note keyboard Fa1-La4 with chromatics and diatonics plated in boxwood and ebony. The key action is suspended.
The pedalboard has 18 parallel pedals from Fa1 to Do2, constantly linked to the keyboard. The stops are controlled by stoplevers, which slide horizontally until they latch into a notch at the right side of the keyboard. The windchest was rebuilt as a copy of the original Antegnati, in solid walnut. It is a spring chest. Positioned at the rear of the case are the four original wedge bellows operated by levers.
The facade pipes are “Antegnati” and belong to the stop “Principale”. About 60% of the internal pipes are “Antegnati” with the exception of the “Voce Umana” and “Flauto in dodicesima” which are not original, dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The remaining ones were rebuilt anew as part of the restoration works.
Gian Giacomo Antegnati 1554
Keyboard of 50 keys (F1/A4 without the last G#)
Pedalboard of 18 keys (F1/D2)
Principale (base 12′)
Trigesimaterza e sesta
Flauto in VIII
Flauto in XII