Just a stone’s throw away from the world-famous Duomo di Milano, the small and often overlooked parish church Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro is squeezed into a courtyard between resident houses, very typical for historic city centres in Italy. Because of the limited and tiny space available, from the outside only the front and back facades are visible.
Inside and also due to spatial restrictions, this church is unique and surprising because of its false apse. The Renaissance architect Donato Bramante is responsible for an early example of the trompe-l’œil (French for ‘deceive the eye’) technique by using perspective to create the illusion of a bigger space than what actually exists. Unbelievable how the painted choir fools the eye, creating an apparent depth of many metres where, actually, there is only a space of less than one metre in depth. An early masterpiece of 3D painting.
Re-built many times, the 8th century Parrocchia is an interesting mishmash of various architectural styles, definitely worth a visit. Even more so after having experienced the monumentality of the close-by Duomo. Exploring both churches one after the other shows the diversity of Italian church architecture within walking distance.
Moreover, after the masses of people in and around Duomo, San Satiro offers some peaceful, quiet moments of sightseeing. Sit down for a few minutes, relax and take a break from the crowds!