Help Now >
Archdiocese of Milan
FREE Catholic Classes
Located in Lombardy, northern Italy. The city is situated on the Orona River, which, with three canals, the Naviglio Grande (1257-72), the Naviglio Martesana (1457), and the Naviglio di Pavia (1805-19), is the highway of the commerce of this great industrial centre, called the moral capital of Italy. The soil is very fertile and there is extensive cattle-raising and manufacturing throughout the province. The name of Milan is probably derived from the Celtic met lan , which means "in the middle of the plain". The city was founded in 396 B. C. by the Insubres, on the site of the ruined Melpum, and became the chief centre of the Cisalpine Gauls. After the defeat of the Gauls near Clastidium, Mediolanum was taken by the consul Lucius Scipio (221) and became a Roman municipium . In 45 B. C. it obtained Roman citizenship, and under the emperors it had famous schools and was a flourishing city, the Emperor Adrian having made it the seat of the prœfectus Liguriœ and Constantine, of the vicarius Italiœ . After A. D. 296 it was several times the capital of the emperors of the West ( Maximian Herculius, Valentinian I, his Son Honorius, and later, of Ricimer and of Odoacer). The edict of toleration of Constantine and Licinius (313) was agreed on and published at Milan. In 452 the town was besieged by Attila, and in 538 destroyed by Uraia, a nephew of Vitiges, King of the Goths, with a loss, according to Procopius, of 300,000 men. Perchance for this reason the Lombard kings did not thereafter select Milan for their capital, though Bertarius did so during the brief division of the kingdom between the sons of Gundobad (661). After Charlemagne, Milan was the seat of counts, whose authority however, was overshadowed by the prestige of the archbishops, foremost among whom was Ansperto da Biassono (869-81), who fortified the town and adorned it with beautiful buildings. In 896-97 it endured a severe Siege by the Hungarians, and a century later Otto II transferred the title of count to the archbishops. The most distinguished of these was Ariberto (1018-45), who induced Conrad II to take the crown of Italy. With the assistance of the people he made war on Pavia and Lodi (1027), on which account he incurred the enmity of the greater feudal lords whom he exiled, but who, leagued together, defeated the archbishop at Campo Malo (1035), and returning to the city, called Conrad to their assistance; the latter, however, besieged Milan in vain (1037). Though the struggle continued, a noble, Lanzano, and no longer Ariberto, headed the popular party. Finally, nobles and burghers entered into compacts, and this intermingling of the classes brought the commune into existence. At the same time studies, the industries (especially wool), and commerce flourished.
As the power of the burghers grew, that of the archbishops waned, and with it the imperial authority which the prelate represented, so that Milan in 1110, refused to pay tribute to Henry V, who had come into Italy. In 1116 the public authority passed entirely into the hands of consuls elected by the people. Milan made war on cities faithful to the empire: Pavia, Cremona, Lodi (destroyed 1111), and Como (destroyed 1127). Frederick Barbarossa wished to remedy these evils, and in 1158 obliged Milan to swear allegiance to him and to receive an imperial podestà. This officer was soon driven from the city, but in 1162 after a long siege, Milan was again reduced to obedience, and in part destroyed. The battle of Legnano (1176) secured their rights to the Lombard cities, and to Milan its consular government; but on many occasions the authority of a foreign podestà was substituted for the native consuls. The long period of peace was favourable to agriculture (greatly furthered by the Cistercians ), also to the wool and the silk industries, in the former of which, throughout Milanese territory, 60,000 men were employed, while the silk industry supported 40,000 persons. The struggle against the empire was renewed under Frederick II, who ignored the rights won at the peace of Constance. A second Lombard League was formed, which Frederick defeated at Cortenuova, though he did not succeed in his ulterior purpose. Thereafter Milan entered into further wars with Ghibelline cities, especially with Pavia. The nobility remained favourable to Frederick and to his successors, and this caused internal strife in Milan, and the creation of a new office, that of capitano del popolo . The first to hold it was Pagano della Torre, elected in 1240 by the Credenza di San Ambrogio , the executive branch of the city government, composed of twelve members representative of the three orders of citizens. The legislative power was exercised by the General Council, the number of whose members was variable. The capitano del popolo was hated by the nobles, and when Pagano della Torre was succeeded (1247) by his nephew Martino, under the title of anziano della Credensa , the nobility sought the assistance of Ezzelino da Romano; but Martino overcame the resistance of the nobles, and also defeated Ezzelino, introduced reforms into the public administration, and distributed the public offices with equity. A new civil war was prevented by the "peace of St. Ambrose " (1258), at which the equality of nobles and people was agreed on. As conflicts continued, Martino called to his assistance Oberto Pelavicino, a well-known soldier with whose help Martino had finally vanquished Ezzelinoda Romano. In 1263 Filippo, brother of Martino, was real lord of Milan, though he carefully avoided any such title, and as other cities — Como, Lodi, Novara, Vercelli, also La Valtellina, were subject to Milan, he may be called the founder of the duchy. His nephew Napoleone, under the title of anziano del popolo , exercised supreme power (1265-77), and in his later years was imperial vicar for Italy, notwithstanding the fact that he was a Guelph. The archbishop Ottone Visconti, who since 1262 had been prevented from taking possession of his see, organized the nobles exiled from Milan, and after several battles, succeeded in capturing Napoleone and his relatives, whom he locked up in cages at Como.
The archbishop then caused himself to be proclaimed perpetual lord, thus putting an end to the Republic of Milan and founding the power of the Visconti, which aimed at the conquest of the entire peninsula, though its real domain was limited by the Alps, the river Sesia, and the Po, while the east extended as far as Brescia, conquered in 1337. From 1302 to 1311, the della Torre were again in power, Guido of that family having driven Matteo I Visconti. from Milan. When the latter returned, he was made imperial vicar by Henry VII, and devoted himself to driving the leaders of the Guelph party from the Lombard cities, On this account John XXII declared war, and sent Cardinal Bertrand du Poyet against Matteo. Galeazzo, Matteo's son, continued the war against the legate and the Guelphs, and adhered to the party of Louis of Bavaria. His son Azzo (1329-59) contributed to the ruin of the Scaligers, obtained Brescia, and was succeeded by his sons Luchino (1339-49), famous for the refinement of his cruelty, and Giovanni II (1349-54), Archbishop of Milan, who obtained possession of Genoa and Bologna, though unable to hold either of these towns, or the cities of Asti, Parma, and Alexandria. At the death of Giovanni, Milan was divided between three brothers, his nephews: Matteo II, who died in 1355; Galeazzo II (1354-78), and Bernabò (1354-85) all patrons of literature and of the arts, but odious through their cruelty, misgovernment, and exorbitant taxes. Accordingly, a strong league was formed against them in 1367, by Pope Urban V, Charles IV, the towns of Florence, Ferrara, Mantua, and others, but it was prevented, by fortuitous circumstances, from destroying the power of the Visconti. Galeazzo was succeeded by his son Giovanni Galeazzo, who was forced into war, with his uncle Bernabò, and having taken him in ambush, cast him into prison, where he died in 1385. The state of the Visconti was thus united again and in 1395, Giovanni Galeazzo received the title of duke. In 1387 he had conquered Verona and Vicenza. During his reign the duchy of Milan was at the height of its power, and contained the following cities: Pavia, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Como, Novara, Vercelli, Alexandria, Valenza, Tortona, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio, Verona, Vicenza, Belluno, Pisa, Siena, and Perugia. Giovanni Galeazzo was eminent, both for good and evil ; the Carthusian monastery of Pavia is a witness of his religious sentiments and of his taste for the arts. He died in 1402, leaving two Sons, minors, Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria. During their minority, many conquered possessions were lost; but, Giovanni Maria having been assassinated in 1412, Filippo Maria remained sole duke, and with the assistance of Carmagnola, retook a great portion of the lost territory. The offensive proceeding of Filippo Maria caused the house of Este, the Gonzagas, and Venice to form a league against him, which led to a long war ; in the course of it, several famous battles were fought, among them that of Maclodio (1427), by which the Duke of Milan lost Bergamo and Brescia, and the naval battle of Portofino (1431) disastrous to the Genoese allies of Milan. The peace concluded in 1433 was favourable to Venice ; but the war broke out again, and continued until the death of Filippo Maria, in 1447, when the Ambrosian Republic was proclaimed (1447-50).
Help Now >
For military reasons, Francesco Sforza was made capitano del popolo , and succeeded in taking possession of the fortress and in having himself recognized duke (1450). This event led to a new war with Venice and the King of Naples, closed by the peace of Lodi in 1454. Francesco was succeeded in 1466 by his son Galeazzo Maria, who, hated by his subjects, was stabbed to death in 1476. His son Giovanni Galeazzo had as regent, first his own mother, and then (1480), his ambitious uncle Ludovico il Moro, who succeeded his nephew, at the latter's death in 1494. Louis XII, who pretended to rights over Milan, entered into a compact with Venice for the division of the duchy. Ludovico il Moro attempted to resist them, but was constrained to seek refuge in Germany, and Milan came under the power of the French. In 1500, Duke Ludovico returned to his dominions for a time, but other French troops were sent against him, and he died a prisoner in France. The expulsion of the French from Italy ensued upon the death of Gaston de Foix, the victor of Ravenna (1512), and Milan was given to Maximilian Sforza, a son of Ludovico il Moro, although the Spaniards were its real masters. After the battle of Marignano, Maximilian surrendered Milan at the end of a brief siege, and remained a prisoner. The French had been definitively excluded from the peninsula by the battle of Pavia when Francis II, a brother of Maximilian, became duke, and at his death Charles V took the Duchy of Milan for himself, and bequeathed it to his successors on the Spanish throne. The peace of Utrecht (1713) gave Milan to Austria, which power had occupied the duchy since 1706. During the war of the Austrian succession, Austria's dominion over Milan was interrupted for a time (1745), and France even offered the duchy to Savoy. Under Maria Theresa and Joseph II much was done for the prosperity of the Milanese, and civil and ecclesiastical reforms were also introduced. In 1796 Milan became the capital of the Cispadan Republic, soon transformed into the Cisalpine Republic, and (1805) into the Kingdom of Italy ; the Cispadan Republic was supported entirely by French arms, which checked by Austria (1799), returned victorious, after Marengo. In 1814 the Austrian domination was re-established, and lasted until 1859. Encouraged by the revolution of Vienna in 1848, Milan revolted, in an effort to throw off the foreign yoke; and the five days (18 to 22 March of that year) remain famous; a provisional committee was formed and the Austrians were compelled to retreat ; but the consequent war, Piedmont having taken up the cause of Italy, was disastrous to the insurgents; and Milan (with Lombardy ) again became subject to Austria. The war of 1859, however, decided the final annexation of Lombardy to the Kingdom of Italy.
Help Now >
Milan is an archiepiscopal see. According to an eleventh-century legend the Gospel was brought there by St. Barnabas, and the first Bishop of Milan, St. Anathalon, was a disciple of that apostle. But a diocese cannot have been established there before 200, and possibly not till much later, for the list of the bishops of Milan names only five predecessors of Merocles, who was at the Council of Rome (313). During the persecutions several Christians suffered martyrdom at Milan; among them Saints Gervasius and Protasius (first persecution of Diocletian ), St. Victor (304), Sts. Nabor and Felix, and Sts. Nazarius and Celsus. Among its bishops should be named St. Eustorgius, St. Protasius, and St. Dionysius, who firmly opposed the Arian emperor Constantius, and was exiled to Cappadocia (355), while the Arian Auxentius was put on the episcopal throne of Milan. But the people remained faithful to the Catholic religion. At the death of St. Dionysius, the great St. Ambrose was elected bishop (375-97), vanquished paganism and Arianism, and was the guide of those good princes Gratian, Valentinian II, and Theodosius. He was succeeded by St. Simplicianus (397), and Venerius (400); Lazarus (438-49) appears to have amplified the Ambrosian rite of Milan; Laurentius (490-512) presided over the Roman councils in the cause of Pope Symmachus; St. Datius (530-52), lived almost always in exile at Constantinople, on account of the Gothic War ; Vitalis (552) adhered to the schism caused by the "Three Chapters", but Auxanus (556) re-established the union of the diocese with Rome. Honoratus (568) sought refuge in Genoa, with a great number of his clergy, during the siege of Milan by the Lombard Alboin, and at his death the Milanese at Genoa elected to succeed him Laurentius II, while Fronto (elected at Milan) was not recognized. When Laurentius died, King Agilulfus wished to secure the election of an Arian bishop, in which, however, he was thwarted by the vigilance of St. Gregory the Great , and both at Genoa and at Milan, Constantius was elected to the vacant see; under him, the cathedral of Monza was erected, Agilulfus became a Catholic, and the conversion of the Lombards to the Faith was begun, while the episcopal residence was again taken up at Milan. The first prelate of this diocese who bore the title of archbishop was St. Petrus (784), but it is certain that St. Ambrose had already exercised metropolitan jurisdiction over northern Italy, from Bologna to Turin, and that the Frankish king Childebert gave to Bishop Laurentius II the title of Patriarch. St. Petrus established an asylum for foundlings, one of the first institutions of its kind in Europe. Mention has been made above of Ansperto da Biassono.
In 980 Landolfo, a son of the imperial vicar, Bonizo, became archbishop through simony ; he was driven from the city on account of his abuse of power, but was taken back by the emperor Otto II, and repaired the evil that he had done. He was succeeded by Arnolfo II (998) and Ariberto d'Intimiano (1018), mentioned above. The latter was succeeded by Guido (1045), also a simoniac. At this time the morals of the clergy were deplorable: simony and concubinage were common, and out of these conditions developed the famous pataria , a popular movement for social and ecclesiastical reform, headed by the priest Anselmo da Biaggio, later Bishop of Lucca, and by the cleric Arialdo, both of whom used force to compel the clergy to observe continence, and to drive its members from benefices obtained by simony. From this great confusion ensued. In 1059 Nicholas II sent to Milan St. Peter Damian and the same Anselmo, at which the people murmured, demanding that the church of Milan be not subject to that of Rome. Archbishop Guido, however, promised amendment, and accepted the conditions imposed upon him, but soon relapsed, and Arialdo, with whom the noble warrior Erlembaldo was associated, began again to agitate the people, in consequence of which he was brutally assassinated 27 June, 1066. Erlembaldo then gave a military organization to the pataria , and Guido, who was excommunicated, was compelled to leave the city. While the election, of his successor was being discussed, Guido sold the archiepiscopal dignity to his secretary. Until 1085 there were several pretenders to the see ; and in one of the many tumults caused by this condition of affairs Erlembaldo was killed (1074). Under Anselm III order was re-established.
Unfortunately, the pataria had created an anticlerical sentiment in the people, and had prepared them to accept the doctrines of Manichæism. In fact, the Cathari of Italy were more frequently called Patari, and in Milan, one of their chief centres, they maintained a kind of university. Archbishop Oberto was exiled by Barbarossa in 1162; and though his successor St. Galdino, was elected at Rome by the emigrated Milanese, he was able to take possession of his see in 1167; he reorganized the hospital del Broglio. Archbishop Uberto Crivelli became Pope Urban III in 1185. At an archiepiscopal election, in 1263 no agreement could be reached, for the people wanted Raimondo della Torre, and the nobles a member of the family of Settala; therefore Urban IV appointed Ottone Visconti, who was prevented by the Milanese from taking possession of his see until 1277, when he entered Milan, both as archbishop and as lord. Roberto Visconti, who succeeded John in 1354, was obliged to enter into litigation with his brothers for the property of the Church , which they regarded as the personal property of their uncle. Among other archbishops of Milan were Pietro Filargo (1402), who became Alexander V ; Fra Gabriele Sforza (1454), an Augustinian, brother of Duke Francesco and founder of the Ospedale Maggiore; and the cardinals Stefano Nardini (1461), Giovanni Arcimboldi (1448), Ippolito d'Este (1497), also the latter's nephew Ippolito (1520). During the incumbency of this prelate, always absent from his diocese, great abuses grew up which Giovanni Angelo Arcimboldo (1550) and St. Charles Borromeo sought to remedy (1561). Here it is enough to mention the latter's zeal for the reformation of morals, his earnestness in preserving the Ambrosian Rite and extending its use throughout the archdiocese (Monza alone retaining the Roman rite ), and his foundation of the Oblates for diocesan missions. His work was continued by Gaspare Visconti (1584) and by a nephew of St. Charles, Federigo (1594-1631), who was a cardinal, as were all of his successors, to Filippo Visconti (1784-1801), whose nomination by Joseph II, made without the consent of the Holy See, nearly brought on a schism. He was followed by Cardinal Caprara, well-known as Apostolic legate to the court of Napoleon. After the death of this prelate in 1811 the See of Milan remained vacant for six years; the next archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Gætano Gaisruck, was appointed in 1818 and governed the diocese until 1848 "more as a soldier than as a prelate ". He was especially opposed to the re-establishment of the religious orders. Archbishop Paolo Angelo Ballerini (1859-67) was never able to take possession of his see, because the Italian Government denied him the exequatur ; and his auxiliary bishop Dominioni was also persecuted.
Councils were held at Milan in 343 and 347, against Photinus ; in the cause of St. Athanasius, at which the Emperor Constans menaced the bishops ; 390, against Jovinian ; 451, against the Robber Council of Ephesus ; 680, against the Monothelites ; 1060, 1098, 1117, 1287, for ecclesiastical reforms. The diocesan synods of St. Charles Borromeo and those of 1636 and of 1669 were also reform synods. Diocesan synods were held in 1609 and 1850 respectively. The suffragan bishops of Milan were wont to meet each year at Rò; their sees are Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Crema, Cremona, Lodi, Mantua, and Pavia. The archdiocese has 788 parishes, with 1,828,000 inhabitants, 27 religious houses of men, and of women nearly 80 in the city and 220 throughout the diocese ; it has 43 educational establishments for boys and 176 for girls, 2 Catholic daily papers, and many important periodicals. In the Middle Ages there was a monastery at Milan, St. Cosmas, for Armenian monks of the Rule of St. Basil ; they depended, however, on a similar monastery in Genoa, and had no relation with Armenia. This order, which used the so-called Aquileian rite, was suppressed in 1650.
The wonderful Italian Gothic cathedral is built of white marble, has five naves, and is 486 feet in length; it is surmounted by 98 slender turrets, on the principal one of which is a bronze-gilt statue of the Madonna; there are, in all, 6000 statues, 2000 of which are on the exterior. The cathedral is situated on the site of the ancient basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (fourth or fifth century), and was begun in 1386 by Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti. The tomb of St. Charles is under the cupola. The treasury of the cathedral contains, among other valuable objects, two statues, of St. Charles and of St. Ambrose, made of silver and set with precious stones, the gift of the city. The high altar is a gift of Pius IV. The church of St. Ambrose, built by its patron saint in 386, and often restored, especially in the twelfth century, contains the tomb of the Emperor Louis II; in the chapel of St. Satyrus is a mosaic that dates, probably, from the fifth century, while the central door, with wood-carvings representing scenes from the life of David, is held, on seemingly good grounds, to be of the time of St. Ambrose ; the church possesses also a golden altar-front ( palliotto ) of Angilbert (835). The monastery annexed to this church had a fine library, and belonged at first to the Benedictines, later to the Cistercians ; it serves now as a military hospital. The church of St. Eustorgius contains the mausoleums of Stefano Visconti, Martino della Torre, and others. The church of St. Stefano Maggiore is of the fifth century; that of San Vittore al corpo is the Basilica Portiana, dating from before the time of St. Ambrose ; it contains the body of the martyr St. Victor, and also valuable paintings. San Nazaro Maggiore (382?) has a vestibule by Bramante, and contains the tombs of the Trivulzio family. In the church of St. Aquilinus there is a beautiful mosaic and the sarcophagus of a lady of the family of the Emperor Theodosius. Santa Maria delle Grazie is a church in the style of the Renaissance (1465), with a cupola by Bramante ; it has valuable frescoes, beautiful carvings, and inlaid work in the choir; in the ancient monastery, which formerly belonged to the Dominicans, is the famous Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci. On the site of the principal hall of the baths of Maximiam, the peristyles of which remain, is built the church of San Lorenzo, containing ancient mosaics. The church of San Marco (1254) has a beautiful high altar, and valuable paintings ; that of San Maurizio, said to have been built by Queen Theodelinda, is covered with frescoes by Luini between 1503 and 1509. San Satiro, a church that dates from 876, was restored by Bramante. There are also the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and others.
Among these are the Palazzo di Corte (1228), restored several times; whose garden contains the Royal Villa (1790); the Broletto Nuovo, from 1228 to 1786 the palace of the commune; the Palazzo della Ragione (1233); the Broletto (1413-24), at present containing public offices; the Collegio Elvetico, founded by St. Charles Borromeo, and now the seat of the Court of Assizes; the Vittorio Emanuele gallery and the Castello Sforzesco.
There are two episcopal seminaries, and the Lombard Seminary for foreign missions; the Academy of Sciences and Letters; the Technical Institute; the Superior Institute of Commerce; 3 royal and 6 private gymnasia; many other schools, 17 of which are under religious direction; the Verdi Conservatory of Music; the Lombard Institute for Sciences and Letters; the Royal Pinacoteca della Brera, formerly a Jesuit college, rich in paintings of the old Lombard school, and possessing a valuable numismatic collection. In the Castello Sforzesco is a museum of ancient and medieval art, while many of the private palaces, such as those of the Borromeos and of the Trivulzios, contain valuable collections of paintings. The National Library in the Brera (1770) and the Ambrosian Library are famous. The latter was founded by Cardinal Federigo Borromeo (1609) and contains 200,000 volumes, besides 8300 manuscripts, 126 of which are illuminated with miniatures. The State and the municipal archives are important; so, also, in their sphere, are the astronomical and the meteorological observatories. Milan has 14 theatres, of which the Scala is world-famous. There are 17 hospitals and 5 polyclinics, also asylums for the insane, the blind, the deaf-mute, etc. There are nearly 5000 industrial establishments, with 150,000 workmen; the textile, typographic, and pharmaceutic industries are especially well represented.
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.