San Vittore al Corpo monastery

Via San Vittore 16. (Open Map)


The church of San Vittore al Corpo was the basilica of the Olivetani monks who lodged in the convent annex, nowadays premises of the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia (Science and Technology Museum). Records of the history of the primitive building are unverified also because with the reconstruction that took place in '500, very few traces of the original structure remained.
In the XII century Arnolfo, the archbishop of Milan, entrusted the basilica to the Benedictine monks of San Vincenzo in Prato who constructed the convent annex with funds that they had amassed.At the beginning of the XVI century the complex changed hands passing to the Olivetani monks and its radical transformation commenced from this date. Vincenzo Seregni worked on the project of the new church but the definitive work was carried out by Galeazzo Alessi who in that period was also employed in the construction of Palazzo Marino.The interior of the church is sumptuously decorated with stuccos and frescoes from the end of the sixteenth century whilst a large number of the paintings are later works of Lombardian artists from the early seventeenth century. The existing façade of the church is uncompleted: the front has two orders, the lower one is marked by twelve decorative pilasters and the upper by four supporting pilasters surrounding the rectangular frontispiece.It is one of the most beautiful churches of the entire Italian Late Renaissance.It was in the VIII century that the church started to be called with its present name, as after the martyrdom of San Vittore his remains were buried there. This explanation was given by a scholar, Latuada, whilst according to research by Montrasio the denomination "al Corpo" ( to the body) derived from the fact that the basilica lies on a "Campo o Corpo Santo" (Sacred place or body), in other words in an area of the city founded on one of the ancient Christian burial grounds.In 1805, during the Napoleonic occupation, the convent annex became a military hospital and underwent restructuring works until 1808. It then passed into the hands of the Austrian and later Italian armies and was named the Voloire or Villata barracks. It suffered further damage following the bombings of August 1943. Starting from 1947 the damage was repaired and the building was finally established as the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci" (National Museum of Science and Technology).There are numerous sections and works to be admired in this church. Ercole Procaccini worked on the San Giuseppe chapel, while the three canvases with images of San Gregorio in the right apse of the transept are by his brother Camillo. By the same artist is the pictorial decoration of the small chapel of San Vittore that can be found in the sacristy. Particularly noteworthy is the wooden choir from the end of the sixteenth century with images of San Benedetto.From an artistic point of view also the carving works of the sacristy are interesting. The richly decorated vaulted ceiling is also to be admired, embellished by religious images of saints and angels. The inside of the dome with frescoes by Daniele Crespi and Guglielmo Caccia Moncalvo creates a wonderful visual impact.