Basilica of San Simpliciano

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Basilica of San Simpliciano


On the façade, the arcades that surmount the portals indicate the presence of an ancient portico, now disappeared. The upper part, the most modified in the 19th century, has two mullioned windows in the centre, an upper triple mullioned window and decorative arches. Late Renaissance mullioned windows also decorate the bell tower.

The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles with four pilasters per side. The transept is divided into two aisles.

The side chapels have decorations from various eras, from Renaissance to Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassicism. In the right transept is a painting by il Padovanino portraying the Defeat of the Cammolesi. Next to the apse entrance are Saints frescoed by Aurelio Luini. The apse vault is decorated by what is considered Ambrogio da Fossano's masterwork, a wide Encoronation of Mary.

Also on the left of the apse is the entrance to the small sacellum of the Martyrs of Anaunia, probably from the 4th century.

The western wall of the transept has a Marriage of the Virgin by Camillo Procaccini.

The site of the present church was occupied in the 3rd century AD by a Pagan cemetery. Here St. Ambrose began the construction of the Basilica Virginum ("Basilica of the Virgins"), which was finished by his successor Simplicianus, who was buried here. A brick with the mark of the Lombard King Agilulf shows that repairs were made between the years 590-615 AD.

In the 9th century the Cluniac Benedictines took possession of the church. In 1176 the church became famous when, according to the legend, the bodies of the martyrs housed here flew as doves to the field of Legnano, landing on the City's Carroccio, (a ceremonial war waggon) as a sign of the imminent victory against Frederick Barbarossa's army.

The building was modified between the 11th and the 13th centuries. In 1517 it was acquired by the Benedictines from Montecassino, who remained here until 1798, when the convent was turned into barracks. In the 16th century the Spanish governor Ferrante Gonzaga had the bell tower lowered by 25 meters. The dome and the side wings were also modified in 1582. Other interventions were carried on in the 19th century, with poor results, while the façade was reworked in 1870. In 1927 glass-windows portraying episodes of the battle of Legnano were added.

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