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“Very weird but intriguing ossuary”

Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa
Ranked #37 of 1,010 things to do in Milan
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed February 16, 2014

Had heard about the ossuary on Trip Adivisor and was a little hard to find initially but is to the left of a bigger church Santo Stefano Maggiore. Beware of the man on the door charging an entrance fee, this is of course not official as all churches are free entry in Italy. The church itself is nothing special and it would be easy to miss the ossuary which is down a corridor to the right of the entrance. It is within a couple of blocks from the Duomo, not for the faint hearted and obviously wouldn't suggest taking young children. The ossuary itself is more sad than creepy, but nevertheless has an intriguing history as previously mentioned, housing the bones from centuries ago and also more recent plague victims. Well worth a visit if I'm sorry to say, only for the novelty factor.

3  Thank Jayh111
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"human bones"
in 19 reviews
"main church"
in 8 reviews
"bone chapel"
in 6 reviews
"floor to ceiling"
in 4 reviews
"strange feeling"
in 3 reviews
"small donation"
in 3 reviews
"small chapel"
in 3 reviews
"short walk from the duomo"
in 4 reviews
"fascinating church"
in 2 reviews
"above ground"
in 2 reviews
"worth a visit"
in 9 reviews
"famous duomo"
in 2 reviews
"free entry"
in 3 reviews
"in advance"
in 2 reviews
"last supper"
in 2 reviews
"ossuary"
in 25 reviews
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101 - 105 of 664 reviews

Reviewed February 14, 2014

I live in Milan, and I discovered just recently this church. The church itself is nice, but the best thing is the bone chapel: it has been done with the skulls and bones of the death during the plague. It represents the "Memento Mori", and it is fascinating to have a look at it. If you observe weel, you will see that inside a lot of skulls there are rolled parchment: it's an old tradition of Milanese people. They write their prayer on the parchment and they entrust them to the deads.
Must see if you are nearby!

1  Thank Stefano F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 23, 2013

As a medical student this was something that I definitely wanted to see. It was a little hard to find, and even after finding the right church we had some trouble getting to the "ossarium" (apparently we walked past the hallway leading there).
The atmosphere there is very special, hundreds of human skulls and bones watching down upon you... It's a quiet and calm place, since it's not that known with tourists (this also means there is no entry fee).
In the end: a bit creepy but then again very fascinating and only a small walk from the duomo, so definitely worth a visit.

3  Thank Bart D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 22, 2013

San Bernardino alle Ossa is a church in Milan that is not one of the best known turistic places in the city, and certainly is not for everyone, despite being impressive in my opinion. She sits on a square that is diagonally across from the Duomo in the southwest direction, approximately two blocks away from it (around 300 meters).

The Church has a Mannerist style facade not being too flashy externally, and in a side chapel which can be seen from the outside through gaps in a wired window, we find the Ossuary itself, which is a small chapel decorated with bones and skulls that ends up being the reason for the Church to be known to some extend.

The Church has its origins in 1145 when a hospital (Hospital of St. Barnabas in Brolo, which is the historical region) and a cemetery were built in front of the Basilica of Santo Stefano Maggiore. In 1210, due to lack of space, a camera was built to house the bones of the cemetery, and adjacent to a church that was built in 1269. In 1642 due to the collapse of an adjacent tower of the Basilica di Santo Stefano Maggiore, the site was damaged as well. In 1679 the church was restored by the first time, by Giovanni Andrea Biffi, who modified the facade and decorated the walls of the ossuary with skulls and other bones. In 1712 the church was destroyed by fire, and was replaced by a new one, designed by Carlo Giuseppe Merlo, who changed the basic plans of it due to the fame of the ossuary. The new church was then connected to the former one by an ambulatory, and named St. Bernardino of Siena, that have its current facade completed in 1776.

The bones are arranged in all walls, going up to the ceiling about 4 feet tall and follow geometric patterns, well organized and often making drawings, like crosses in a Baroque / Rococco style. Are all held in place by a discrete metal grid that hold everything in place - there are separate skulls in closed boxes, which are victims of the Black Death. The dome of the chapel have a fresco by Sebastiano Ricci (painted in 1695), and in the front of the chapel we find a nice altar.

A curiosity about this site: its said that in 1738 the King John V of Portugal visited it, and impressed ordered to build a ossuary in Évora, Portugal, near Lisboa.

As a bonus the entrance of San Bernardino alle Ossa is not charged, and there are no restrictions on photography and filming. A very different attraction for sure, and beautiful in its own way, well worth a visit.

5  Thank Robert B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed November 8, 2013

Not hard to find, approx five minutes walk from the Duomo and to me much more interesting. When you reach the square where the church is it's the small church to the left. Enter through the large wooden door and the ossaria is to the left down a small passage.
I found it fascinating and sleightly eerie. Previous to this visit i had only read about these "bone churches" and decided the visit one whenever i was within travelling distance on one of my trips.
Although smal the chapel is beautiful in a strange way. I found it fascinating and it was a highlight of my Milan visit.
Please take tme to read up about these churches and if you can visit. On my visit there was a Chinese choir practising in the main church and again that alone was wonderful to see and hear.
Well worth seeking out.

1  Thank Mancunia_11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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