Cenacolo - Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 1-2. (Open Map)


Visitors who truly wish to discover and learn about the city’s wonders cannot miss the splendid Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a rich testament to the Renaissance in Milan.
In this historical period the city knew an explosion of art and culture that has no equal thanks to the government of the Visconti, Sforza and Ludovico il Moro. The Renaissance and the magnificence of the courts brought to Milan a flurry of cultural activities and transformations: in these years lived in Milan the humanists Filelfo Pier Candido Decembrio, Gasparino Barzizza and Jacopo Antiquario; the art of printing was introduced (1470-1471) by Panfilo Castaldi and Filippo Lavagna; architects Filarete and Bramante and painters Foppa, Zenale and the universal genius of Leonardo da Vinci worked here. The court of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d’Este was known as the richest and most wonderful of all Italy. Today we can rediscover the Renaissance in Milan through its churches and monuments such as the wonderful church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
It was constructed thanks to the contribution of Count Gasparo Vimercati, commandander of Francesco Sforza’s militia and works began in 1463. The project was designed by Guiniforte Solari who also oversaw the works from 1466 to 1481.
Designed by Bramante and built for the Duke of Milan Francesco I Sforza, several reworkings have left us today with a multi-form structure topped by a cupola. Visitors find the church formidable, robust and luminous, enriched with external decorations in brick and plaster. Regardless of its immense architectural value, however, its fame is invariably tied to the artistic jewel found in the refectory: Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Inside the oldest part of the church (in the Gothic style), a chapel to the right has the frescos with Storie della Passione (Stories of the Passion) by Gaudenzio Ferrari and a monument erected for Ludovico il Moro, topped by a representation of the old facade of the Cathedral (Duomo).
Ludivico il Moro decided to make the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie the burial site for members of the Sforza family and in 1497, his wife Beatrice d’Este was buried here. According to tradition, he also built a tunnel that connected with the castle, which was called “Sforzesco al convent”.
At one time the chapel on the right held Titian’s The Crowning with Thorns.
The main door of the church, from 1463, and the celebrated Last Supper (L’Ultima Cena) by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the convent.
The architect Guiniforte Solari. The convent was completed in 1469 and the church, later in 1482. Other changes were made when Ludovico il Moro, in power at the time, decided to change the large choir and the apse of the church. The construction was finished around 1490.
The segmental dome was initially attributed to Bramante, even if there was lack of any proof. Some historians consider Bramante to have been responsible for the initial project but that he did not continue with the actual works, which were most certainly directed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo.