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Church of Sant’Antonio Abate
The church of Sant’Antonio Abate was constructed in the 1300s as part of the eponymous convent of the Antonian monks’ hospital order that had been called from France to manage a hospital founded in 1127 by Ruggero del Cerro.
The bell tower and the cloisters are visible evidence of this period and of the subsequent reconstruction in 1456.
In 1582, after the convent was passed on to the Theatines order, the church was rebuilt to a design by Dionysius Campazzo completing the final structure that we see today. It has a Latin cross floor plan, a single nave and side chapels, three on each side.
During its glory days, in the 1600s, major decoration works were carried out with the participation of some of the most famous artists of Lombardy.
The “Natività di Maria” (Nativity of Mary) by Giovanni Ambrogio Figino and the “Madonna col Bambino con S. Caterina, S. Paolo e S. Giovannino” (Madonna and Child with St. Catherine, St. Paul and St. John) by Campi can be found in the third chapel on the right.
The “Adorazione dei Magi” (Adoration of the Magi) by Morazzone and the “Adorazione dei pastori” (Adoration of the Shepherds) by Lodovico Carracci can be seen in the right transept.
The “Risurrezione” by Cerano is to the left of the altar and in the third chapel on the left is the “Visitazione e Sacra famiglia” (Visitation and Holy Family) by Giulio Cesare Procaccini. Furthermore, the choir has pews carved with designs attributed to Francesco Maria Ricchino.
The incomplete neoclassical facade is the nineteenth-century work of Giacomo Giuseppe Tazzini.
The bell tower was clad in brick, as was customary in the fifteenth century, and was adorned on the upper half with the Antonian’s sacred symbol: the Greek letters "TAU".
Despite nineteenth-century reconstructions, the cloister still retains the elegant Bramante lines with moulded terracotta friezes from the early 1500s.
In the hospital to which the church of Sant’Antonio Abate was annexed, those infected by the so-called "holy fire", or shingles, were cared for with applications of ointment derived from pig fat.
The pigs were considered so useful for the ailment that from 1416 onwards the monks obtained an unusual privilege from the Visconti family- they were permitted to let the pigs graze in the area around the monastery and hospital, entrusting their upkeep to public donations. In the mid1400s Francesco Sforza founded the Ca' Granda hospital to amalgamate all the smaller hospitals in the city and the monastery lost its main function.