The Church of St. Maria delle Grazie
(Image - Interior view of St. Maria delle Grazie)
The Church of St. Maria delle Grazie was built on the north western border of Milan for the Dominican Orthodox order. The land was generously endowed by Gaspare Vimercati, a nobleman connected to the ruling dynasty, a military commander himself like Duke Francesco Sforza.
Planned in plain Lombard Gothic style by architect Guiniforte Solari, the church was built starting from 1466 and completed within a couple of decades. Towards the end of the 1490’s following the replacement of Guiniforte Solari by Donato Bramante, an outsider architect who came from Urbino, in the Marches, the Church underwent expensive and extensive reconstruction works to meet the requirements of Ludovico Sforza, now Duke of the Milanese State.
Part of the extant church was demolished and a true gem of Renaissance Art replaced the transept. A new concept of space and light was introduced and the overwhelming decorations of the Gothic style cruxific form Church gave way to a building, the Tribune, allusive of celestial harmony and charged with esoteric symbolism.
Completed in 1497 to allow, the burial of Ludovico’s young spouse, Beatrice d’Este, who died prematurely in childbirth on the 2nd of January of the same year, Bramante’s Tribune was completed with a beautiful choir in inlaid wood that provided a warm embrace to the marble tombstone carved by Cristoforo Solari that featured the ducal couple lying together in death.
Partly damage during the Word War II bombardments although not as severely as the Refectory that houses Leonardo's Last Supper, the Church was restored in the late 1940’s and more recently in the 1990’s.