The Santa Maria delle Grazie Church is the most visited tourist attraction in Milan. The main reason for this is Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco, “The Last Supper”. The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is very much recommended to reserve a visit to the church (and especially the fresco) beforehand.
Santa Maria delle Grazie Church Milan
The address of the church is Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2 – 20123 Milano (tel. +39 0246761125 or +39 0289421146). The nearest metro stop is Cadorna. The church is open Monday to Friday from 07:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00. On Saturday and Sunday it is from 07:15 to 12:15 and from 15:30 to 21:00.
For a visit to the Last Supper, reservations are required. This can be done by phone at (+39 0292800360). The entrance fee is 10 Euros (plus 2 Euros booking fee). Discounted price: 5 Euros. On the day of the visit, please report to the ticket office next to the entrance 20 minutes in advance, with proof of payment.
The Last Supper
The “Last Supper” was painted between 1494 and 1497. Its dimensions are 4.60 by 8.80 meters. The commissioner was Ludovico il Moro, who wanted to make the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church the personal church of his Sforza family.
Although the “Last Supper” was to be painted on a wall, Leonardo did not use the fresco technique. This required a rapid painting on the white, still wet surface.
He experimented with a method whereby he could paint on a dry surface. This had the advantage that he could make any improvements where necessary.
However, the experiment failed. His calculations proved wrong and the painting soon began to show defects. As early as 1566, Vasari wrote that nothing more than a few spots remained of the work.
This led to “The Last Supper” having to be restored many times over the centuries. The last of these attempts to save the work was completed in 1999. It had taken twenty years and involved removing several layers to reveal the original painting.
History and description
The history of the church begins in 1460, when Count Gaspare Vimercati donated a chapel to the Dominican monastic order. This chapel contained a fresco that was supposed to depict the Madonna and was called “delle Grazie”. Subsequently, the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church and its cloister were built.
Construction, under the direction of the architect Giuniforte Solari, began in 1463. The monastery was already finished in 1469, while the construction of the church itself was only completed in 1482.
When Ludovico il Moro decided to use the church as a mausoleum for his family, a reconstruction was necessary. The architect, Bramante, added two semi-circular apses, as well as the dome, the cloister and the refectory (where “The Last Supper” is located).
The church has seven square chapels on either side, except for the last one the left all dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie.
After the construction of the church, the city’s most influential families immediately requested the use of the chapels to bury their relatives. Of course, in return they allowed the most famous artists of the time to decorate the chapels.
The Santa Caterina Chapel is graced by sculptures created by Antonello da Messina.
Both the Chapel of the Adoring Virgin (Cappella della Vergine Adorante) and the Chapel of the Holy Crown (Santa Corona) contain frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari.
The Santa Maria delle Grazie Convent is built around three cloisters. On one side it adjoins the church itself, while on the other sides runs a portico with columns embellished with Gothic capitals.
The refectory contains both the Cenacolo and one of the most famous works by Milanese painter Donato Montorfano, “The Crucifixion” (La Crocefissione). It is the only work by Montorfano that shows his signature and the date (1495).