• LOCATION 20 | The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace

    Trivulzio Mausoleum

    Trivulzio Mausoleum on Milan audio tour The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace

    Stop here in front of the large orange building on your right, with its Renaissance façade in brick work while I tell you a little bit about it.

    It was commissioned by one of Milan’s most famous generals, Gian Giacomo Trivulzio as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Although a very courageous captain Gian Giacomo was also a traitor and he had made an enemy of his erstwhile master, Duke Ludovico Sforza or Ludovico the Moor as he was commonly known. Gian Giacomo had switched his allegiance to the King of France and at the head of an army invaded Milan in 1499 overthrowing the Sforzas. He accumulated huge wealth by these questionable deeds and to display his power he commissioned the enigmatic architect-painter, Bramantino, to build this mausoleum attached to the entrance of one of the most ancient churches in the city, San Nazaro in Brolo or Saint Nazarus in the Garden. But as you’ll know pride frequently comes before a fall and a few years later Gian Giacomo fell foul of the new king of France and died in disgrace. His grand monument was never finished off entirely and that’s why this façade has been left in plain brick work.

    In his days of glory he had also asked Tuscan genius Leonardo da Vinci to build his sepulchre with an equestrian monument. Leonardo did many drawings and plans of horses in movement and on hind legs. Alas, like so many of Leonardo’s great projects, it remained on paper and was never transferred into the intended marble. A painter, musician, philosopher and hydraulic engineer, there was no sphere of human knowledge that didn’t capture da Vinci’s interest. He had spent 18 years in the service of Ludovico Sforza. It was here that he did some of his most outstanding paintings, including two portraits of Ludovico’s girlfriends and, of course, the Last Supper. That monumental masterpiece is located in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It took him close on 4 years to complete, a huge amount of time for those days. But Leonardo wanted to capture the reactions and personalities of each of the twelve apostles when Christ makes his terrible announcement of the imminent betrayal. No-one was going to hurry him, not even the fiery Dominican prior. Legend has it that Leonardo threatened to use the prior as his model for Judas Iscariot if he wasn’t left in peace to finish at his own pace! In reality he spent a lot of time here in the city’s criminal districts looking for good Judas material but we still don’t know exactly who his models were. And when he wasn’t painting he also spent a lot of time studying nature and improving the city’s waterways. So you are also walking in the footsteps of one of the greatest artists ever.

    Let's keep moving.

    Facing the mausoleum, follow the narrow lane to the left of the building. It’ll bring you to the rear of the church of San Nazaro in Brolo.

    As you go down this path you should see a tiny shop on your right. It’s one of my favourites, it’s called Abside and it sells clothes and accessories in natural fabrics, second-hand books and it’s also a meeting point for young artists and writers.

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The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace