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Secret Churches in Milan Featured

In a city full of art, explore the secret churches in Milan.

by Naomi Vakharia

Unsurprisingly, the Duomo is not the only church worth visiting while in Milan. Though it is undoubtedly the crowned jewel in the city, there are a few hidden gems scattered throughout Milan. From gorgeous frescoes to ancient columns, these secret churches all have a unique quality that makes them undeniable treasures.

Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio

Located at the end of Corta di Porta Ticinese, the Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio is one of the oldest churches in Milan. Founded in the 4th century by its namesake, Bishop Eustorgio, this church has an interesting history. It was rebuilt in the 12th century to reflect the budding Romanesque style and a few centuries later, the church was robbed of the sacred remains of the Magi. While Frederick Barbarossa raided Milan, locals stowed away the remains inside city walls, only for them to be found. After over seven centuries, with a little help from Cardinal Ferrari, part of the remains were returned to Milan and are located on a shrine in the altar of this church.

Not only rich with history, Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio is full of artistic elements. Adjacent to the church stands the previous Dominican convent turned parish museum. With paintings from the 10th century and Renaissance frescoes, this small corner of Milan is rich with history and is just waiting to be explored.


Related: Santa Maria della Grazie- “The Last Supper”

Church of San Maurizio at the Monastero Maggiore

Nestled between modern buildings, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is a true hidden gem of Milan. Born from Renaissance style architecture, the gray facade is a juxtaposition to the ornate Baroque designs inside. Located on Corso Magenta, this church can be easy to miss but we recommend taking a peek inside this charming location. With frescoes galore, almost every inch of its walls is covered in art. If you listen closely, you can sometimes hear the sound of the choir practicing, which adds an extra layer of ethereal beauty to the church. Moving towards the altar, there is a room behind the facade of the church. This second room is home to a gorgeous organ that commands the attention of the entire room.

monastero maggiore

Church of Santa Maria di San Satiro

Optical illusions, Renaissance designs, bleeding paintings? Despite its small size, Santa Maria di San Satiro has much to boast about. It is home to one of the first incorporations of optical perspective illusions in history, which is used to make the church look deeper than it actually is. The illusion creates an appearance that the apse behind the altar is 10 metres deep, while its actual size is less than one metre.

The Santa Maria di San Satiro is unlike any other church in Milan. Originally a local church from the 9th century, a miracle prompted the rebuilding of the church that has lasted since the 15th century. The miracle? A painting of the Madonna and Child began to gush blood when it was attacked with a knife in the 13th century. This site has an eccentric and intriguing history that is rare and a once-in-a-lifetime visit.

Related: Explore Milan’s Beautiful Surroundings

San Bernardino alle Ossa

A darker church, San Bernardino alle Ossa is not for the faint-hearted. Prior to its foundation, the grounds were home to a cemetery, which due to its location in the heart of Milan, began to run out of space. The only solution was to transform the chapel into an ossuary, with walls decorated with artistically stacked bones and skulls. Since 1210, this location has been home to a haunting form of Christian art that makes it extremely unique and worth the visit.

alle ossa

Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore

An impressively sized church, Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore commands the attention of any passerby. Located in Carrobbio, this church is a sight to behold. Most known for the pillars facing the facade of the building, this church is ripe with history. The pillars were built in the 2nd century from the Roman Empire and are two centuries older than the church itself. Aspects of this church’s architecture to note are the dome and its facade, both of which were added to the basilica in later centuries. For any architecture buffs, the differences between the style and colouring are subtle, yet still recognisable.

san lorenzo maggiore

For more ideas on Things to Do in Milan, visit our Destinations page.