Very close to the Duomo, at the top end of Via Torino, the bustling retail paradise, lies one of Milano’s hidden gems: the Church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro with its fascinating faux perspective apse.
Founded by Archbishop Ansperto in the 9th century, the church of San Satiro is dedicated to the brother of Sant'Ambrogio (patron saint of Milano). The adjacent Santa Maria presso San Satiro was constructed in the second half of the fifteenth century to safeguard a miraculous icon: a votive painting of the "Madonna with Child".
Seen as the space available to construct the church was very restricted the architect, Donato Bramante, had to use visual deception to create the impression that the apse, conserving the image of the Madonna, was 9.70 m in depth and covered by a coffered barrel vaulted ceiling when, in actual fact, the apse was only 97cm deep. He crafted a faux choir in painted stucco thus creating an optical illusion that is only revealed to the eye when standing to the side of the altar.
Visitors standing at the entrance would never doubt the authenticity of the apse as it gives the impression of a much deeper space, a masterful technique that celebrates the genius of Italian art and the exceptional use of perspective. Don’t miss a chance to see it yourself!
One of the most beautiful external views of the church is the rear between via Falcone and via Speronari: the San Satiro chapel, older than the main church it is detached from, is a masterpiece of turrets and terracotta adornments.