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

Exterior view

Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Milan

The pilgrimage church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro in Milan is the first major work built by Bramante. Although a small chapel to house a miracle-working image of the Virgin was begun as early as 1478, Bramante's involvement is not documented until 1482, about when the chapel, parts of which can still be seen at the crossing when viewed from the Via del Falcone, was transformed into the present structure. Despite the building's unusual shape, the design was probably conceived as a whole.

The church, attached to the small, round, 9th-century church of San Satiro (the exterior of which was refaced), is planned as a conventional Latin cross with aisled nave, domed crossing and three-bay transepts. However, the chancel arm was omitted because of the proximity of the Via del Falcone; instead there is a shallow niche, which, through the trompe l'oeil perspective design of its terracotta surface, achieves the striking illusion that it too is three full bays in extent. The niche houses the image of the Virgin at the perspective focus above the altar, an arrangement resembling, albeit on a much larger scale, such objects as Desiderio da Settignano's Tabernacle (c. 1460; Florence, San Lorenzo). Two doors lead into the transepts from Via del Falcone to regulate the throngs of pilgrims.

At the intersection of the right transept and the nave is Bramante’s remarkable octagonal sacristy, the exterior view of which is shown on the photo.

View the ground plan and section of Santa Maria presso San Satiro.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.