Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monuments: St. Ambrose takes the place of Philip II of Spain

Happens all the time. You're in favor one minute, then your not. That's what happened to poor Philip II Hapsburg of Spain...More......

He inherited the dukedom of Milan (how did big hunks of northern Italy fall into Spanish hands?...long story for another post), and a statue of him was put on the the façade of the new (and still visible) Palazzo dei Giureconsulti (Jurists), built on land once owned by the pre-Visconti faction, the Della Torre family. The land faced the city hall square (the Broletto, just a stone's throw from the Duomo, and on a straight course between it and the castle...surely not by chance) by a then popular architect Vincenzo Seregni with money donated by Pope Pius IV, uncle of Milan's pesky Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, charged with whipping Milan into post-Council of Trent rigorous shape, and the younger culturally-inclined Cardinal Federico Borromeo, creator of the Ambrosian Library and Pinacoteca, which we still visit, today.

So, there's Philip II Hapsburg of Spain on the fancy office building façade. He somehow escaped notice during the Austrian Hapsburg imperial rule, but when the chilly breeze of self-rule began blowing through Milan around the whirlwind that was Napoleon, his sculpture was torn down, and replaced with one dating to 1833 by Luigi Scorzini, which depicts St. Ambrose in the act of blessing.

A fitting beginning to this tour through Milan's monuments because St. Ambrose--Milan's bishop in the second half of the 4th century A.D. and without whom it's very likely that Christianity the world over would be very different, today--is the city's patron, and his holy day is fast approaching: December 7.

P.S., It's said that Seregni simply enclosed in sculpted marble the late medieval Della Torre bell tower of the Palazzo (a couple of grains of salt with any "it's said..." phrase are always healthy)...centuries of history all around us, just waiting to be enjoyed, if we mentally scratch the surface.

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