Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trip to Milan

The weekend of Feb 11th and 12th we took the train from Vevey to Milan.  It only takes  about 3 hours with one fast connection in Montreux, about 10 minutes from Vevey.  You will notice in the following pictures that we are still in our heavy coats.  The temperature has not been above freezing for over 3 weeks.  In fact today, Feb 15th, it was been snowing off and on most of the day.  The projection this weekend is that it will finally be above freezing.

The main reason we went to Milan was to view the Last Supper painting.  Normally, for a weekend viewing, you must order your tickets months in advance, however, Paula was able to get tickets on short notice at a not very savvy price but we accomplished it all the same.  We had passed through Milan over a decade ago and missed seeing this masterpiece because the church was closed for renovation, so it has been on the "TO DO" list ever since. 

We found a lot more to enjoy about Milan and always LOVE being anywhere the Italian's hang out. 

Arriving at the Milan train station. You can tell by the architecture and all the people, Milan will not disappoint. 

Not even out in the streets yet and the architecture in the train station is incredible.

Another picture at the train station.  If the train station food was good we might just as well stay here.

We stayed at this tiny locally owned hotel in Milan, the Antica Locanda Solfrino.  One of Paula’s colleagues, from Nestle, is from Milan.  She asked him to recommend a hotel that would provide true Italian flavor.  This hotel certainly met our expectations, with only 11 quaint rooms, sweet balconies and remodeled bathrooms-it was perfecto. 

More hotel pictures. Note the little touches like the upholstered roll on the floor under the window that matches the drapes. You won't see that in the Marriott. 

The exterior of the Antica Locanda Solfrino hotel. Great little proprietor operated restaurant by same name next door. 

After we checked into the hotel, we took the Metro ( subway system) to the Duomo.  While still underground , we were saying we hope we can find this place and don't have to waste a lot of time in the cold wandering around. We came up the Metro stairs and turned around almost mid-sentence to see this massive structure looming 50 meters away.   It was so startling it was spectacular.  None of the pictures we took can do it justice.

The Cathedral is massive.  Its length is 515 ft, width 302 ft, height 148 ft and spire height 349 ft. Initial construction began in 1386.  It was built to hold 40,000 worshippers, which was the entire population of Milan at that time.   To appreciate the size , consider that St Mary's Cathedral in downtown Portland probably holds 2000 people.  The Duomo was official declared finished in 1965 with the inauguration of the last of the five bronze doors, each carved by a different artist.

The Cathedral is the fourth largest church in Europe and the second largest Catholic Cathedral in the world. On the exterior walls, which are constructed of pink marble, there are over 2,300 statues, all made between the 14th and 20th centuries, by sculptors from all over Europe.

On the 135 spires are statues of saints and people of power including Napoleon.  In fact, in 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy in the Duomo. On the very highest spire is a 15-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary. 

Another view of the Duomo.

It is difficult to take picture inside the Duomo not only because it is so massive, but also very dark.  We attended Saturday Mass.  Because the Cathedral was so massive, we expected the acoustic to be very bad.  However, we were seated next to an 8 person choir and they sounded just marvelous.  We were able to hear the priests, there was not any reverberation at all.

Inside the Duomo.

In the interior there are 52 pillars, this size, one for each Sunday in the year.

Another interior shot.

A picture of one of the many side altars.

The stained glass windows, behind the high altar, depict scenes from the bible.  Their purpose was to teach the illiterate masses the way to salvation through stories of the Old Testament and the life of Jesus.

Another stain glass window.

Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) was the Cardinal Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Milan from 1564 to 1584.  He was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests.

St Borromeo is buried in this chapel beneath the alter of the Duomo. So interesting that he is laid right out there in plain sight with just a burial mask and his robes, of course. 

There are over 1,200 statues inside the Cathedral.  The most famous work is the statue of St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, who was skinned alive by the Romans and then crucified.  This statue shows him with his skin draped around is neck. The yuck factor also makes it fascinating. 

Milan is noted for very high end , world class, shopping. Fashion capital of Italy which actually interests us very little. However, when they begin to manufacture pure chocolate shaped into designers shoes and purses,  one must take notice.

Same shop-at the top floor of the local department store, La Rinascente.

Same Shop at La Rinascente.

This is the Sforza Castle.  It was built in the late 1300's as a military fortress to defend Milan from its enemies.  In 1450 additional fortification was added, by the Sforza family, in anticipation of an attack from the Venetians.  Leonardo da Vinci was a guest at the castle from 1482 to 1499.  While at the castle, among many of his other achievements, he completed the Last Supper.

A real castle with turrets and a spot for the moat...they are everywhere in Europe but this one is well preserved.

Archway leading to the courtyard of the castle.

One of the many items in the Museum of Ancient Art in Sforza Castle.

 Another item on display, in the museum, is Michelangelo's unfinished Rondanini Pieta.  He started this sculpture around 1552.  According to his sketches, it was going to be similar to the original Deposition, see below.  Somewhere along the line he decided to sculpt only the figure of the Virgin Mary holding the lifeless figure of Christ.  Parts of the first version are still clearly identifiable, such as the right arm detached from the body.  He died in 1564 before he could complete this Pieta.

Another view of the Rondanini Pieta, with the detached right arm.

For interests sake, we thought we would include pictures of his two most recognized marble sculptures, excluding the David.  The Pieta, shown above, which he sculpted from 1498 to 1500, is currently located in St Peter’s Basilica, in Rome. 

This second sculpture, which he sculpted from 1547 to 1555, is The Deposition, also known as the Florence Pieta.   The four figures in the sculpture are Christ, Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.  This sculpture is located in the Museum of the Works of the Cathedral, in Florence.

Frozen fountain in front of the castle

A statue of Leonardo da Vinci facing La Scala Opera House.

 La Scala, the worlds most prestigious opera house (according to the Milanese)

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, this four-story glass-domed arcade was built between 1865 and 1877.  Its designer Giuseppe Mengoni pioneered its complex marriage of iron and glass 20 years before the Eiffel Tower was built.  Unfortunately, the day before its completion in December 1877, Mengoni fell to his death from the top of the arch.  Pretty unlucky.

The ceiling vaults are decorated with mosaics representing Asia, Africa, Europe and America. The mosaics on the floor below the dome depict the coat of arms of Savoy and Italian cities are symbolically represented: a wolf for Rome, a lily for Florence, a bull for Turin and a white flag with red cross for Milan. It was the first building in Milan to have electric lighting. It is named for Victor Emanuel II who was the first King of Italy from 18612 until his death in 1878.

Today the Galleria includes elegant shops selling most things from exclusive custom-fitted clothes and jewelry to books and paintings, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars. The Galleria is famous for being home to some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan, such as the historic Biffi Café, founded in 1867 and the first Milanese café to install electric lighting in 1882. The silverware store Bernasconi, which designs and sell some of the best silver articles to be found any where in the world and Zucca's Bar, where many celebrities would gather after a night at La Scala. The Galleria is also the site for many luxury goods shops such as Prada's flagship store that has been in business here since 1913, Massimo Dutti, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.  It also has a McDonald’s.

Another view of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

Picture of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  The location of Leonardo's Last Supper and Montorfano's The Crucifxion.

A view of the front of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. A far cry from the Duomo.

Another view of the front of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

It took Leonardo Da Vinci four years (1495 – 1498) to complete this masterpiece, which measures 15 ft by 29 ft, on the north wall of the refectory in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  The refectory was where the Dominican monks ate their meals. 

He used a new technique for the painting, oil pigments on dry plaster, rather than the preferred method of tempera on wet plaster which had been used successfully for centuries.  This new method allowed him to use more vivid colors, but unfortunately, this new method did not work well and the painting started to peel and fade after only 6 years.  The first restoration started in 1726.  The last restoration started in 1977 and was completed in 1999.   You will notice that Christ’s feet are missing in the painting.  His original painting had Christ’s feet, crossed, as they were at his crucifixion.  However, around 1650 some mis-guided soul, decided to insert another door in the refectory, and chose to put the door in the center of the painting.

 According to our guide, even though they have pictures of the original painting, the folks in charge of the restoration made the decision not to paint in Christ’s feet. 

The painting has endured a lot over the last 500 years.   Years of pollution, plus, during the Napoleonic Wars, (1799 – 1815), Napoleon’s soldiers used the refectory as a stable.  The soldiers used the painting for target practice, shooting at the central figure of Christ’s head.  This is why the face of Christ is almost obliterated.  In 1943 a bomb destroyed much of the refectory, however, the monks were able to sandbag the North wall and save the masterpiece and the south wall to save the painting of The Crucifixion, see next picture.

We are certainly no art critics, but the perspective he used is incredible.  Every single element of the painting directs one’s attention to the mid point of the painting, Christ’s head.

The Monks, at Santa Maria delle Grazie, got tired of how long it was taking Da Vinci to finish The Last Supper. He wanted to do many things other rather than paint.  As you know, he was not only a great painter but also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, sculptor, architect botanist, musician and writer.  So, in 1495 they commissioned Giovanni Donato Montorfano, to paint The Crucifixion of Christ, on the south wall of the refectory, see below. We don’t hear much about this painting.  Part of the reason is the techniques that each artist employed.  Da Vinci's painting looks like a true picture with depth.  Montorfano’s is a flat surface with no depth.

One can only imagine what it would have been like for the monks to eat their meals, with a painting of The Last Supper on one wall and The Crucifixion on the other.

Giovanni Donato Montorfano's painting of The Crucifixion of Christ.

A warm up break in the afternoon. These little coffee, pastry places are everywhere. All the attention to detail makes it special and they have the best hot chocolate we have ever tasted. 

Another shot of the same cafe.

No comments:

Post a Comment