Ambrosian Basilicas and early Christian churches in Milan
On the tracks of paleochristian Milan. A journey which will will take you to a period in which the city was the capital of the Western Roman Empire. It was 313 a.d. in Milan when emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Constantine proclaimed his edict for tolerance which still bears his name. This put a stop to all religious prosecution and proclaimed the neutrality of the Empire in regards to any faith.
The Basilicas founded by Saint Ambrogio, who was bishop of Milan from 374 to 397, are all located outside the city walls.
16 centuries of history can be seen in the Basilica of Saint Ambrogio (basilica martyrum) on which building began in 379 a.d. and is where the Saint was buried in 397 a.d. Beyond being a place of worship dear to many Milanese, the Basilica itself holds heirlooms, relics, and art works of great value.
On the main avenue of Porta Ticinese, a further testimony to early Christian Milan is well represented by the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, which is fronted by sixteen Roman columns belonging to a temple from the 2nd Century. The columns lead to the churchyard which is dominated by a bronze copy of a statue of the Emperor Constantine.
A short walk from San Lorenzo rises the Basilica of Saint Eustorgio; on the right of the nave there is the Chapel of the Magi, where bishop Eustorgio (315-331) wished to place the relics of the Magi. They were subsequently sacked by Barbarossa (1164) and only partly returned at the start of the twentieth century. Behind the apse, the Cappella Portinari can be found, one of the greatest works of the Lombard Renaissance.
One of the first Basilicas built in Milan was San Simpliciano (basilica virginum). The structures of the church have experienced considerable changes over the course of the centuries. It was Saint Ambrogio himself who wished to build the temple that was later completed by his successor, the bishop Simpliciano.
Basilica apostolorumis is the name Saint Ambrogio gave to the present-day Basilica of San Nazaro, located in the square of the same name. It was founded in the 4th Century but rebuilt in a Romanesque style after the fire of 1075.
Other note-worthy basilicas are: San Vincenzo in Prato, located in Via San Calogero. It is of early Christian origins but was rebuilt during Medieval times by Benedictine monks; San Vittore al Corpo is a basilica maybe founded in the 8th Century but rebuilt in the 16th Century.
It is worth pointing out that inside the Duomo of Milan, below the churchyard, the remains of the Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti can be found, it was an addition to the basilica of Santa Tecla, of which no trace is left. In this baptistery on the 24th of April 387, Ambrogio baptised Saint Augustine.