History of Santa Maria delle Grazie

Nestled in Milan, the Santa Maria delle Grazie church stands as a symbol of religious devotion and artistic excellence. 

This renowned church, accompanied by an impressive convent, boasts a fascinating history that spans centuries.

The history of Santa Maria delle Grazie dates back to the orders of the Duke of Milan, Francesco I Sforza, who desired a grand church to replace a smaller chapel dedicated to Saint Mary of the Graces.

Among the interesting facts about Santa Maria delle Grazie is its association with the famous mural, the Last Supper, painted by the brilliant artist Leonardo da Vinci. 

This masterpiece draws countless admirers to witness its captivating portrayal of a significant moment in Christian history.

The church and convent have seen centuries of history, enduring wars and renovations. 

Today, you can admire the beautiful architecture, stroll through peaceful courtyards, and enjoy the art in the chapels.

As it continues attracting visitors worldwide, it is a significant cultural and religious landmark in Milan.

As we delve into the fascinating history of Santa Maria delle Grazie, you will discover a place that not only represents religious significance but also holds a deep cultural heritage.

Whether you love history, art, or simply exploring, a trip to Santa Maria delle Grazie guarantees an unforgettable time.

Take the Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper guided tour to live and learn about the captivating history of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the iconic church and convent in Milan.

Construction and Design

The Dominican convent was built from 1463 to 1469, led by architect Guiniforte Solari. 

The church’s construction took longer due to Duke Ludovico’s desire to use it as a burial place for his family. 

The apse and cloister were rebuilt, and the church was finally completed in 1497. Ludovico’s wife, Beatrice, was buried there.

Its architectural design, blending Gothic and Romanesque influences, showcases the evolving styles and techniques of the early Renaissance era. 

Its construction materials include local resources like earthenware and granite, which were used for the masonry and decorative capitals. 

The church features a nave and two aisles, typical of Lombardian Renaissance style, with ogival vaults and a sloping roof.

Chapels and Artistic Contributions

Delving into Santa Maria delle Grazie facts unveils a remarkable journey through time, offering insights into the profound impact of this esteemed church and convent.

Inside the church are seven chapels on each side aisle, historically used by prominent Milanese families for burial and private prayer. 

These chapels were adorned with frescoes by renowned artists like Gaudenzio Ferrari. 

Napoleon acquired and placed ‘The Crowning with Thorns’ by Tiziano Vecellio in the church, but it’s now displayed at the Louvre Museum.

Cloisters and Convent

The convent comprised three cloisters. 

The first was demolished in 1897, while the second, known as the Great Cloister, featured cells for the monks. 

The Cloister of the Dead, located near the ancient Chapel of the Virgin of Graces, now houses the Chapel of the Rosary. 

The Cloister of the Dead was destroyed during World War II and later reconstructed. 

The Chapter House, the Locutory and the library are around the cloisters.

The Refectory and Last Supper 

When learning about Santa Maria delle Grazie, it’s important to note its connection to the famous mural, the ‘Last Supper.’

The refectory, located on the western side of the convent, suffered damage during bombings in 1943. 

However, two surviving paintings are the famous ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci and ‘The Crucifixion’ by Donato Montorfano. 

The refectory also features a frescoed frieze on its western wall from the same period.

On a guided historical walking tour of Milan, you can witness Da Vinci’s mural of ‘The Last Supper’ without waiting in long lines. 

Santa Maria delle Grazie as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980, the church is of extreme cultural significance, and there is a need to preserve its historical and artistic value.

Being an outstanding cultural and artistic location, the church represents humanity’s shared heritage.

Santa Maria delle Grazie history reminds us of how the Renaissance period had a big impact on art.


What famous painting is found in the Santa Maria delle Grazie?

The famous painting in the Santa Maria delle Grazie is “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci.

Located on the western side of the convent in the refectory, it showcases the iconic masterpiece depicting the biblical scene of Jesus and his disciples during their last meal together.

Who built Santa Maria delle Grazie?

The history of Santa Maria delle Grazie is intertwined with the orders of the Duke of Milan, Francesco I Sforza. 

He asked to construct a larger church to replace a small chapel, and architect Guiniforte Solari managed the project.

The church and convent have since become iconic symbols of historical significance, architectural grandeur and renowned artworks that have captivated visitors for centuries.

Where is the original The Last Supper painting?

The original painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is in Milan, Italy. 

You will find it in the refectory of the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The history of Santa Maria delle Grazie spans several centuries, from its construction in the 15th century under the patronage of the Duke of Milan to its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

Featured Image: Cenacolovinciano.org

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