Did you know that, due to the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio, Milano is also known as the city of the Three Kings? The ancient complex is situated in Corso di Porta Ticinese, near the Darsena docklands and the Navigli canal area.
Sant'Eustorgio is one of the oldest churches in Milano: it was founded in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. Originally it housed the relics of the Three Kings which were stolen when Milano was sacked by Federico Barbarossa and subsequently taken to Cologne. Nowadays, some of these relics are on display in the niche above the altar for the worship of the faithful; they were brought back to the city in 1903 to recompense Barbarossa’s transgressions.
The procession of the Three Kings on the Feast of the Epiphany is a popular centuries-old tradition celebrated in Milano. It starts from Piazza del Duomo and ends at the church of Sant'Eustorgio.
The Basilica is an important focus point for the city’s faithful because, legend has it that, when St. Barnabas brought Christianity to Milano he preached and baptized the first Christians herein. Over the centuries, the church became a thriving centre for Milanese Christianity as it was the seat of the Dominican order whose mission was to preach the gospel: the large-scale structure of the church accommodates large congregations thus enhancing the dissemination of God’s message.
Make sure you don’t miss a visit to the Portinari Chapel: commissioned by the Florentine nobleman Pigello Portinari, its construction started in 1462 and bears testimony to the presence of Florentine art in Milano. The upper parts of the interior walls were frescoed by the Lombardy artist Vincenzo Foppa between 1466 and 1468.
The wonderful late-Gothic tomb in the chapel was built by the Pisan architect and sculptor Giovanni di Balduccio between 1335 and 1339. The sarcophagus conserves the remains of Pietro Rosini, known as San Pietro Martire or Pietro da Verona. The Venetian prior, martyred in 1252, was slayed by two assassins in the undergrowth at Farga, Barlassina near Como. His hagiography recounts that he barely had time to inscribe the words "I believe" with his own blood in the dust before he perished.
The Diocesan Museum is located in Saint Eustorgio’s ancient cloisters: it has an impressive collection of artworks that span several centuries, plus, it hosts an annual programme of fascinating temporary exhibitions not to be missed.
The bell tower of Sant'Eustorgio, commenced in 1297, is the tallest in Milano and, since 1305, it displays the oldest public clock in Italy. Unusually, the bell tower is not topped with a cross but with an eight-pointed star to indicate the presence of the remains of the Three Kings who followed the star to the stable where Jesus was born.