The Last Supper – Il Cenacolo
The day starts with a visit to The Last Supper (aka Il Cenacolo) at Santa Maria delle Grazie. There are numerous websites devoted to this fresco and an equally large number claiming to sell tickets and many actually selling tickets (at marked-up prices). The official website is well hidden as is the link on it to the official ticket site but the essential thing to remember is that no ticket means no entrance and that last minute tickets are either very expensive
or impossible to obtain. As well as daytime visits, evening visits (more expensive but a smaller group, a longer time; and a guide) are also available. A good website with virtual tours of the Church is here.
Pat had the opportunity to see this painting when she was 16 but for reasons best left un-chronicled, she decided not to and so today (this is in fact the most important reason for this visit to Milan) is the opportunity to reverse that omission.
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie seems to be missed by many tourists who concentrate just on The Last Supper.
Built from 1462 and repaired following war damage, the painted ceiling and some of the original frescos are works of art in themselves.
The outside walls have some very ornate
emblems in them. Although the church was damaged in WWII, the fresco miraculously was undamaged although it now shows the effects of time and an unwise choice of original materials and technique.
Having arrived slightly before the appointed time, you are checked into the first of two air locks and eventually you get into the chapel where the fresco is at one end
and at the other end is another interesting fresco “Crocfissione” by GIovanni Montofano painted around 1495.
The “no photography” rule is very strictly enforced and if you take a photograph, they will try to get you to delete it and also eject you. We purchased postcards as a substitute.
After 15 minutes, you are shown out into the shop (where you can buy your Last Supper Jigsaw or Last Supper in the Snow when you shake it toy) and then into the outside air.
It is well worth seeing and the experience was better managed than I feared it might be.
Needless to say, statues and images of Leonardo are everywhere in Milan and one of the biggest of them is in the square in front of
La Scala and it also provides a home to pigeons of which there are many in this area adjacent to The Duomo.
San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore - a hidden gem
On the left hand side of the main street from the square in front of the Duomo to the church
which houses the Last Supper, is an unassuming looking church within which is a fantastic set of wall murals. Dating from the 1500s and built on earlier religious foundations, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore originally housed a closed convent of Benedictine nuns.
The inside of the church is fairly standard for an Italian Church of the period (which means quite amazingly decorated) but if you go through an archway cut into the wall (at the bottom left of the above photograph), you enter the chapel of what used to be the Closed Convent. The Nuns heard the mass taking place in the
Church through a grating in the wall and
took communion through the hatch shown in the photograph above. This way they were isolated from the outside world but still were in contact with the church and its priests.
The walls of the chapel are covered with the most amazing murals
here the Last Supper
and above is Noah’s Flood showing the animals going into the Ark “two by two” including a pair of unicorns who do not seem to have survived to today.
Some of the animals have quite unusual expressions. The pairs of animals always seem to include a female version and a male version where these are visibly different.
Next to the mural of the ark being loaded, is one of it floating as the rains come down and the general populace drown.
All of the murals have been cleaned and restored with the exception of a central one which shows the dirt of ages.
The ceiling is most ornate
and the organ (built in 1554) is a work of art in itself and is also surrounded by the most ornate painted panels.
If you get the opportunity, the has to be on your “Must See” list.