Tour Locations | The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace
Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa
Stop here by the entrance to the smaller church.
It’s called San Bernardino alle Ossa. That means St. Bernard at the Bones and it dates back to mediaeval times. It was built for a special order of lay priests, called the Disciplined Ones, who worshipped the dead and would self-flagellate themselves to cleanse themselves of their sins. 12 of them are buried under the floor and I’m told they have been mummified and seated in a circle on stones still wearing their black friars’ habits.
The sight of the elaborate decorations is quite macabre but fascinating nevertheless. Skulls, thigh and shin bones are all arranged to form decorative images inside the chapel. The bone chapel was rebuilt in 1695 and this was very much in vogue in the Baroque period. According to some, the bones are from plague victims, others say they belonged to heretics who were vanquished in the 4th century by the city’s most famous Saint Ambrose. Or quite simply, maybe the bones were placed here because the cemetery was overflowing.
I highly recommend popping in to visit if it's open, but before you do, let me show you where to go next.
After exiting the church, you're going to make your way diagonally to the far corner where you can see Original Pizza, by the street.
Now, back to the Bone Chapel.
The Chapel is located behind a door at the end of a narrow passageway to the right of the entrance.
Well why don’t you try your luck and see if the door is open. You can put your phone in your pocket. Make sure you check out the bones forming the letter “M” for Mary and look behind you….
If the church is not open, there's a photo of the Bone Chapel now on your screen.
I'll meet you at the far corner of the square when you're done.