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Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa

Home > Lombardy > Milan > Milan > Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa

The history of the Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa tells that in 1145, where the present via Brolio is situated, a hospital and a cemetery were built, in front of the Basilica di Santo Stefano.

However, in consideration of the little space available, in 1210 a small room was built to host the bones that were exhumed from the cemetery. Then in 1268, next to the ossuary, a small church was built to act as a sepulchre.

Fate had it that in 1642 the belfry of the Basilica collapsed on the ossuary and the church. It was hence decided that a reconstruction of the complex was necessary, starting from the foundations. Work was finished in 1695.

An important detail is the dome which was frescoed by the Venetian artist Sebastiano Ricci, between 1693 and 1694.

Finally, in 1750, the church was enlarged by architects Giovanni Andrea Biffi and Carlo Giuseppe Merlo so as to acquire more space. The church is a single-naved building. In the right-hand side Chapel there is the family tomb of the descendants of Christopher Columbus whilst in the left-hand side Chapel there is a painting which shows Santa Rosalia with an angel.

So as to visit the ossuary, one turns right immediately after having entered and follows a tight corridor. Once there it is incredible to see the number of bones and skulls which are piled up and cover an entire wall of the room.

These relics have been used in correspondence to the friezes on the doors, or to decorate pillars, in rococo style.

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