Christian? You definitely have to visit this place: without Sant'Ambrogio (Ambrose), the powerful late 4th century A.D. bishop of Milan, Christianity might have been very different, today. He became an orthodox christian (believing in the fully present human and divine natures of Christ), and helped sway the powerful Roman emperors from their Arian christian faith (in which Christ is not viewed as fully divine, hence, no eternal sacrifice, no salvation, etc.). He peppered Milan with churches, and this is one of them, renamed after him after his death. He and the two saints he discovered are buried in the crypt. The church is full of beautiful art and history, and almost the whole continuum of Christianity can be followed in this one church. The façade will be particularly interesting to those from southern California: the façade of Royce Hall at UCLA was patterned after this one. Don't miss the little area to the right of the crypt...even if you have to pay a few Euros to get in, it's worth it: there is what once used to be a little free-standing mausoleum that dates from the early 5th century A.D., and contains Early Christian mosaics, including the oldest known portrait (believed accurate due to its date) of Sant'Ambrogio. The little rooms next to it used to be part of the open air portico of the monastery; there are interesting medieval frescoes. Step out into the courtyard, and note the tall pillars of the portico by Bramante, especially the columns that look like rough-hewn trees...purposefully done to recall Vitruvio's theory about the birth of architecture out of nature. You can exit behind the church here and turn right to see the ex-monastery, now the University of the Sacred Heart. The monastery was planned by Bramante, the courtyards are gracious and dignified.
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