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Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio
love couple
Frederick Barbarossa
Stilicho's Sepulchre

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Milan - Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio

Milan - Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio
Milan is the city capital of the Lombardy and the second most populous city in Italy after Rome. Known during Roman times as "Mediolanum" it was the place, where in 313 Constantine I and Licinius met and "signed" the "Edict of Milan", giving Christianity a legal status within the Roman empire.

At the end of the Roman empire Milan was besieged by the Visigoths in 402, looted by the Huns in 452, and taken by the Ostrogoths in 539. Only 30 years later is belonged to the Kingdom of the Lombards, until in 774 Charlemagne defeated the Langobards and added Milan to the Carolingian empire. During Barbarossa´s (Frederik I) "Italian Campaigns" Milan was taken and destroyed to a great extent.

The "Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio" is much older and was not destroyed by Barbarossa´s troops. It is one of the most ancient churches in Milan, built by St. Ambrose in 379–386, outside the city of Milan on the site of a cemetery, where the martyrs of the Roman persecutions had been buried. The first name of the church was "Basilica Martyrum".

Ambrose, born into a noble family about 340 in (present-day) Trier (Germany), was governor of Liguria and Emilia for two years before he became the Bishop of Milan in 374 by popular acclamation. He was a staunch opponent of Arianism.

Only very few traces of the first church can still be found, as in the centuries after its construction, the basilica underwent numerous restorations and reconstructions. The current Romanesque church, mostly built in brickwork, was begun around 1080.

In 789, a Benedictine monastery was established here. The canons of the basilica, however, retained their own community. So two separate communities shared the basilica. In the 11th century, the canons adopted orders and became Canons Regular. From then on two separate monastic orders following different rules lived in the basilica. The canons were in the northern building, the cloister of the canons, while the monks were in the two southern buildings.

The two towers symbolize the division in the basilica. The 9th century Torre dei Monaci ("Tower of the Monks") tower was used by the monks. However, the canons did not have a bell tower and were not allowed to ring bells until they finished the Canons' bell tower in the 12th Century. This tower got two additional levels in 1889.

In 1943 the basilica got severely damaged by bombings. It took a decade to rebuilt and reconstruct the church.

The ambo stands on the left side of the nave. From here the monks and canons read the Gospel. The ambo, supported by nine slender ancient columns, was built over a 4th century sarcophagus, known as "Stilicho's Sepulchre", between 1130 and 1143. When the roof of the basilica collapsed in 1196, the ambo got severely damaged, but it got rebuilt already in 1201.

Between the ambo and the sarcophagus are some semicircular lunettes. They again differ style and in icons.

Couples can often be found in medieval art, but "love-couples", like this one, are pretty rare. Here both partners "float" doing a handshake, the other hand rests on the partner's shoulder.


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