AFTER FIFTY YEARS, THE CRYPT OF THE SAN SEPOLCRO CHURCH REOPENS TO THE PUBLIC

The official opening ceremony took place Saturday, March 12, with the visit of the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola.

After fifty years, the crypt of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has reopened to the public. This extraordinary artistic and archaeological monument in the heart of Milan, the true focus of the Roman civitas that St. Charles Borromeo called ‘the navel of the city’, and that Leonardo da Vinci, in a map of the Codex Atlanticus, indicated as the true center of Milan. Currently included in the urban area between Piazza Pio XI, Piazza San Sepolcro and Via della Zecca, the church is located next to the architectural complex of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.

The first phase of the restoration works, begun in 2015 by Gaetano Arricobene, received the support and contribution of MiBACT, the patronage and the contribution of the Lombardy Region and the contribution of the Cariplo Foundation.

To celebrate the reopening, the crypt will host the exhibition of a facsimile of the Holy Shroud, set up in a climabox, specially created by Lumen Center Italy.

THE TEMPLE OF SAN SEPOLCRO

Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by the beauty and the symbolic value of the site and, in tracing his bird’s eye view map of Milan, took as a center the Temple of San Sepolcro. The church was established in 1030 when a Milanese coins maker, named Rozzone, erected on the remains of the ancient Roman forum a church that Archbishop Ariberto of Intimiano solemnly consecrated to the Holy Trinity. Its long history overlaps with that of the Crusades: after the reconquest of Jerusalem, Archbishop of Milan Anselm IV changed the dedication in “the Holy Sepulchre Church”, in memory of this extraordinary event, on July 15 1100. Indeed, from the time of its foundation, in the underground part of the church there was an exact copy of the tomb of Christ, made by a Campionese master of the early fourteenth century. According to tradition, it contains the land taken by the Crusaders from Jerusalem and other relics from the holy places.

Place of great sanctity, the crypt was chosen by St. Charles Borromeo as a personal place of prayer, where he went every Wednesday and Friday afternoon. He often spent entire nights in what he called “the training ground” of the Holy Spirit, in adoration of the tomb of Christ. For this reason, after his canonization, a polychrome terracotta statue of St. Charles was placed in front of the sarcophagus. In one of the niches, there is a large palm in painted copper, symbol of wisdom, originally conceived as a fountain and commissioned by Cardinal Federico Borromeo.

San Sepolcro is also a place of devotion to Mary Magdalene, who first, according to the Evangelist John, discovered the empty tomb and received the apparition of the Risen One on Easter morning. In a fresco of the left transept, now discoloured, she is depicted on the right of the triumphant Christ, with the body veiled with her long hair; while on the left we see a crowned woman, perhaps the Empress St. Helen, mother of Constantine, who found on the Mount Calvary the true cross of the Lord. The crypt also allows visitors to get in touch with one of the oldest testimonies of the city’s history. The flooring in fact, made up of large slabs of white ‘Verona stone’, comes from the pavement of the ancient Roman forum of the fourth century, the main square of the Roman civitas and centre of the major civil and religious activities.