Church of San Cristoforo sul Naviglio

Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 122. (Open Map)


The church of San Cristoforo is located in the characteristic canal district, on the Naviglio Grande. It is noteworthy for the fact that it is a good example of Lombard architecture.The complex consists of two buildings, a Romanesque section built in 1250 while the canal was being excavated, and another Gothic section known as the “Ducal Chapel” because it was built by Gian Galeazzo Visconti between 1398 and 1405, as a vote of thanks for the victory over the French.Some of the structures built to join the two sections can still be seen. In 1625, the wall dividing one section from the other was demolished to create a single building with two naves. The façade of the Romanesque section has a portal in traditional Lombard terra cotta, added in 1398, with a Gothic rose window above, and the emblems of the Visconti and the city of Milan. The two arches connecting the nave of the older church to the other are also interesting, and likewise the 14th century painted wooden statues depicting Saint Christopher and Saint Joseph with the Child.

The church of San Cristoforo, and in particular its 15th-century belltower, was considered as a lighthouse for the barges arriving from the river Ticino. In the Middle Ages, Saint Christopher was the patron saint of travellers, pilgrims and bargemen.
In the period around the festival dedicated to the Saint (25 July), a fair has been held in the church and along the canal every year from the time of the Visconti rulers (24 July 1428) right up until today. Many people arrive for this celebration in honour of Saint Christopher, patron saint of travellers, and also, in modern times, of motorists. During the fair, the priest blesses the cars of those present.
As regards the 15th century building, another story exists regarding its origin. It is said that Gian Galeazzo Visconti commissioned its construction as a vote of thanks involving the entire population of the city, following the end of an outbreak of plague. The period of disease ceased, according to legend, through intercession by Saint Christopher, after it had caused thousands of victims in 1333.Don’t miss the surviving frescoes in the apse of the oldest section of the church, and the more elaborate paintings in the later section of the building, dating to the 15th-16th century.In the section that was once the Ducal Chapel, there are frescoes by the school of Luini and Bergognone.