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Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio and the Portinari Chapel

A Path to Heaven

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Where is


Piazza Sant'Eustorgio, 20122 Milano MI, Italia (116m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

The basilica of Sant'Eustorgio is among the oldest in Milan. Dear to the Milanese, it is instead little known to outsiders. Certainly, its facade is simple, but it can surprise with interesting details. The red stones that cover it are interrupted by three gray columns, each culminating with the symbol of an evangelist. And the fourth? Who knows, perhaps it was destroyed when the building that abuts the church on the left was built. Other chromatic touches are provided by the white stones of the portal and windows, making these functional elements authentic decorations.

Why it is special

What is enclosed within the walls of the church of Sant'Eustorgio is a place rich in spirituality, rooted underground, before the construction of the building we see today: a late antique necropolis was found not far from the early Christian cemetery visible below the apse. But faith, we know, seeks to elevate the spirit of the believer, and the area of Sant'Eustorgio follows this criterion perfectly. From the past and the death of the necropolis, we move to the birth, with the spring, not far from here, where the first Milanese Christians were baptized by St. Barnabas.

Not to be missed

Then comes the last part of the journey, the ascension to heaven. There is one place in particular where this call is sublimated into a colorful and harmonious silence. It is the Portinari Chapel. In the center, the ark of St. Peter Martyr is the first step upward: a man's life rises through the Virtues, the Saints and Our Lady herself. And when we think we have reached the summit of the composition, we see the frescoes. Angelic choirs in a swirl of colors, which light as feathers rise into the dome covered with colored scales in concentric bands. Here, the lantern gives a glimpse of heaven itself, guardian of the hopes of men, believers or not.

A bit of history

The building as we see it today is the result of numerous transformations. On top of the early Christian church there arose one of Romanesque setting. This, little by little went on transforming, to better meet the needs of the changing times. For example, the cancellation between lateral and central spaces was functional to the preaching activities of the Dominican friars, to whom the building was entrusted in the 13th century. The Portinari Chapel was built between about 1462 and 1468 at the behest of Pigello Portinari, a Florentine who moved to Milan.


The church of Sant'Eustorgio is also known as the basilica of the Three Kings. According to tradition, the chariot carrying the relics of the Three Kings about to enter the city came to a sudden halt. This was interpreted as a divine sign, an indication of the place to erect the basilica to house the precious relics. Stolen by Frederick of Swabia known as Barbarossa in the 12th century, they were only partially returned in the early 20th century.

basilica-di-sant-eustorgio-e-la-cappella-portinariThe facade of the church of Sant'Eustorgio - Ph: MarkusMark (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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Recommended by
Paola Raverdino

I like it very much because it is a place rich in spirituality, but also in history. Every era has left a trace here. It is a basilica that is not very frequented by tourists and that is a pity, because there are masterpieces of great interest.

Narrated by
Alessandra Lana