(b. 1444, Fermignano, d. 1514, Roma)

Exterior view

Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

The prestigious project for a new eastern end (tribuna) to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, was commissioned by the Duke as a mausoleum; work began on 29 March 1492. The basic design, attached to Guiniforte Solari's Late Gothic nave (1463), seems to have been Bramante's, although this has not been proved conclusively. The layout consists of an enormous square crossing crowned with a hemispherical dome, vast apses to left and right and a square chancel covered by a remarkable umbrella vault and with a further apse beyond. Bramante's fascination with apsidal design, which characterizes virtually all his church designs from Pavia Cathedral onwards, may here have had specific funerary associations, among them Brunelleschi's Old Sacristy, which served as a Medici mausoleum.

The overall coherence of the interior, which was executed largely in terracotta and stucco, nevertheless points to Bramante as the designer, as does the handling of such details as the raising of the pilasters on to pedestals and the placing of panels in the frieze, both of which recall the rear façade of S Maria presso S Satiro. The less coherent and more ornamental exterior, which was conceived as a series of superimposed storeys, seems much less characteristic of Bramante, and he may have played little part in its design.

View the ground plan and section of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.