Basilica of Saint Nazarest Major in Brolo

Piazza San Nazaro in Brolo, 5. (Open Map)


San Nazaro Maggiore is interesting for the artworks conserved inside, and for its history. It is a church well worth visiting. It was founded between 382 and 386 A.D. by bishop Ambrose, who later became Milan’s patron saint. Its very early origins makes it an important example of Palaeochristian art in Milan.
Over the course of the years, it has undergone many modifications. Today, it comprises artistic treasures from different ages. The interior is now based on contrasts between the white of the new plaster, the brick-red vaulting ribs, and the grey of some original Palaeochristian masonry that has been left exposed. The building has the cruciform floor plan typical of Palaeochristian architecture. Inside, Romanesque and Renaissance features can easily be distinguished.
In 397 A.D., the body of Nazaro was found, and this gave rise to the construction of a new apse in order to create a chapel for the Saint’s tomb. It is clad with marble donated by the niece of emperor Theodosius I, Serena, who also decorated the rest of the church.
In the Trivulzio chapel, Giangiacomo is buried between his two wives. The funeral slab has a text in Latin, which some scholars translate using the Milanese dialect: “L’è staa mai cont i man in man” (he was never inactive).
Bishop Ambrose dedicated the church to the Apostles Peter and Paul, whose relics were placed into a silver casket under the table of the host.
The roof of the church was originally in timber beams, and it was replaced by the vaulted roof only in the Middle Ages. The dome above the crossing was also added in that period. In the Renaissance, the Trivulzio mausoleum was designed by Bramantino and built onto the Palaeochristian façade of the Santa Caterina oratorio.
The Trivulzio chapel, initiated in 1512 by Bramantino, was designed to be the mausoleum for Giangiacomo Trivulzio, a marshal in the service of Louis XII of France, and his family. The octagonal-plan chapel culminates in a dome whose segmented sides rise from the square base. Inside the church, further refurbishment was performed by Pellegrino Tibaldi, architect employed by Carlo Borromeo.
Don’t miss the Santa Caterina chapel, attributed to Antonio da Lonate (1540). It contains important works such as a 12th century wooden statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, and a painting by Bernardino Lanino of the Last Supper.
In the left transept there are some other interesting works, such as “Jesus during the Passion”, a panel by Bernardino Luini, above a small Renaissance cabinet. In the sacristy there are some works by Giovanni da Monte Cremasco.
There are other fine paintings in the church, such as an Annunciation by Daniele Crespi, and the “Presentation at the Temple” by Camillo Procaccini.