Santuario di San Bernardino alle Ossa
Piazza Santo Stefano, 20122 Milano MI, Italy
|⏰ Opening Hours
9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
|💸 Entrance Fee
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What is San Bernardino alle Ossa?
San Bernardino alle Ossa is an intriguing historical site tucked away in the bustling city of Milan. Known for its remarkable ossuary—a small side chapel adorned with numerous human skulls and bones—it's a destination that captures the imagination and invites visitors into a unique aspect of Milan's cultural and religious heritage. This ossuary is annexed to a church, which is itself of significant interest, with a richly decorated interior and a storied past.
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History of San Bernardino alle Ossa
The origins of San Bernardino alle Ossa can be traced back to the Middle Ages. It was established in 1210 when a room was constructed next to the church of Saint Ambrose to house the bones from the overflowing cemeteries of the time. In 1269, a small church was built near this room to give a proper resting place to these bones which was replaced in the 17th century by the current church, dedicated to Saint Bernardino of Siena. The ossuary, which makes this church so famous, was added in 1695.
Through the centuries, San Bernardino alle Ossa has been a place of reflection and memory. It has witnessed Milan’s many transformations, from the horrors of the plague to the bombings of World War II. Despite the damage suffered during these trials, the site has been lovingly restored and remains an enduring piece of the city's historic fabric.
Why is San Bernardino alle Ossa Important?
San Bernardino alle Ossa holds importance for several reasons spanning cultural, historical, and religious significance. From a historical perspective, it serves as a poignant reminder of the practical and spiritual ways in which past societies dealt with death. Culturally, it's a unique representation of a charnel house, an example that is becoming increasingly rare in European cities.
On a religious level, the site provides a space for contemplation and remembrance, inviting visitors to reflect on the transient nature of life. Moreover, it's a place where art meets mortality; the macabre beauty within the ossuary tells a story of respect for the departed and prompts deeper contemplation about the human condition. For locals and those who know its history, San Bernardino alle Ossa is a symbol of the city’s resilience and continuity.
Things to Do & See at San Bernardino alle Ossa
Visitors to San Bernardino alle Ossa typically start by exploring the church itself, which, despite being less famous than the ossuary, features beautiful frescoes and a peaceful atmosphere. After soaking in the serene ambiance of the church, one moves on to the ossuary. Here, the walls are intricately adorned with bones and skulls arranged in patterns that are both mesmerizing and solemn—a must-see for those interested in the somewhat macabre aspects of history and religion.
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For many, visiting the ossuary is a unique photo opportunity, but it's important to approach with respect as it's indeed a final resting place for many souls. Besides the visuals, take a moment to feel the silence and ponder the stories of the individuals whose remains make up the decorations. If you're lucky enough to visit when a local expert is available, you can learn even more about the little-known facts of this peculiar site.
And let's not forget the surroundings. The church is centrally located, meaning you have Milan's array of other attractions, delightful eateries, and shopping opportunities just a stone's throw away. Exploring the San Bernardino alle Ossa is not just about the site itself, but also about immersing yourself in the historical context of Milano and experiencing the blend of its ancient past with a pulsating modern-day life.