Church of San Fedele

Piazza San Fedele, 4. (Open Map)


The church of San Fedele, one of the monumental central points of Charles Borromeo’s Milan, was built by the Jesuits starting from 1569 with Pellegrino Tibaldi as the main architect. Martino Bassi and Francesco Maria Richini (or Ricchino) also contributed to its construction.
In 1773 the church passed under the canonical rule of Santa Maria della Scala, which enriched it with impressive furnishings and decorative elements, including the Deposition by Peterzano. During the 1800’s the church, which in that era had become a parish, underwent further embellishments.
This solemn and harmonious church, in neo-classical style influenced by nascent Baroque, has two orders of equal width on the façade to compensate for the inconsistent volume of the side chapels. Of particular interest is the left side of the church, designed in close unity with the façade; due to the sumtiouness of its moldings has become an interesting element of the urban decor.
The interior is a single nave, divided into two spans. The four side chapels are not decorated identically but are characterised by common elements typical of the Carlo Borromeo institutions.
The terracotta Stations of the Cross preserved in the crypt are by Lucio Fontana.
S. Fedele church, popular amongst the Milanese for its central location, is called the "Sanctuary of the La Scala ballerinas". Herein lays the ancient image once called Our Lady of the Dancers and singers. It is said that the Rattin and the Spinacitt (affectionate names which the Milanese use for the dancers of La Scala) always called in here to visit their "Madonna" and light a votive candle.
It is said that the church of San Fedele is comparable to the Madeleine in Paris, which is the place of prayer customarily attended by the aristocracy, and singularly reflects the formal elegance of ancient Ambrosian houses.
Passing the second altar on the right visitors can enter an atrium to find an altar piece depicting the Transfiguration by Bernardino Campi in collaboration with Carlo Urbini; the atrium also conserves Alessandro Manzoni’s death certificate. The place where the great writer went to pray to is on the left of the main altar and is marked by a bronze plaque.
It is said that Manzoni died following a fall when he knocked his head against the balustrade. In the square outside the church a monument that depicts him stands in loving memory.