Rome is no longer! Well, in fact it is still there but much less important due to the temporary absence of the Bushsnob… But there is no need to worry, as we will be back on Friday. Now it is Milan’s turn to receive my ponderings.
Of course we went to the Duomo first and dove into the sea of tourists. I lasted about five minutes before I needed to resurface and gasp. Seeing the queues to enter the edifice I despaired and moved off through the Vittorio Emmanuele II gallery where people pay about three times the price for food and/or drinks to do what? To watch people walk past!
Luckily on our way there a large brick building that eventually became the University of Milan (founded in 1924, 65,000 students) located in Via Festa del Perdono caught my wife’s attention. I have already praised her eyes when it comes to game spotting so I do not need to repeat myself but I will anyway! Unluckily, she can spot churches as well! I can handle about one church visit per week but she can visit numerous in a single day, driving me to despair.
Now she did a “double whammy” spotting two sets of cupules in the distance! When she announced this I almost went back to the Duomo and the crowds! The cupules in question belonged to the Parish of Santo Stefano Maggiore and San Bernardino alle Ossa that are found side by side at the Santo Stefano Square. Seeing my wife zeroing in on them, as usual, I followed, resigned to my fate.
Entry into the Parish confirmed my worst fears of another church full of frescoes and images that I am sure are very beautiful, valuable and important for many people, except myself so I departed quickly and, as usual, proceeded to wait outside. Eventually a satisfied wife appeared and without much ado made a beeline for the other church. I followed again, my complaints ignored as usual. This time I was wrong, the place offered an unexpected corner: the ossuary.
As its name indicates this is a small side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones. I learnt that it was built in 1210 to house the bones of a full next-door cemetery and those who were enterred there. In addition, there is a special place located over the back door where the skulls of criminals who were beheaded for their crimes are kept.
The rather macabre sight of the bone niches and bone-based ornamentation on the walls offers a great contrast with the beautiful and colourful frescoed vault painted in 1695 by Sebastiano Ricci known as the Triumph of Souls and Flying Angels.
We visited the crypt under Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome in 2008. There the remains of thousands of Capuchin monks are arranged along the walls in a more elaborate, if the word is appropriate, bone arrangement. However, the most striking find at that church for me was the final sign that reads: “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be” This had a profound impact on me and it became engraved in my mind as it brought home the inevitability of death! Writing this post I learnt that these bone-related structures are known as “Memento mori“.
 Latin: “Remember (that you have) to die” highlighting the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits, a lesson that should be understood by all today!