Objects, relics, and migrants

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan and the cult of its saints (386-972)

Ivan Foletti
Collana: In Between. Images, Words and Objects, 2
Pubblicazione: Febbraio 2020
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Edizione cartacea
pp. 250, ill., col., 21x21 cm, bross.
ISBN: 9788867289509
€ 45,00 -5% € 42,75
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The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, originally built under Ambrose (374-397), and radically restructured at the end of the eleventh century, is an extraordinary lieu de mémoire, containing the presence of medieval objects and monuments. Through the study of some of the renowned works conserved in the basilica, among which the chapel of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro, the golden altar, and the St Ambrose ciborium, this book deals with the interaction between the building’s topology and its objects, the relics around which the basilica was built, and the notion of ‘migrants’. The aim, in other words, is to analyze, over the longue durée, how some objects became a reflection of the relics, and how the material sanctity stemming from them was used as an instrument of exclusion and inclusion in a problematic ethnic context. Dedicated photographic documentation, carried out specifically for this work, offers rich and sumptuous iconographic material underpinning the volume.

  • Objects, relics, and migrants: a few introductory remarks
  • 1. The apse of the Basilica Martyrum and the Milanese relics in the fourth century
    • Plates
    • Gervase, Protase and the lost apse
    • The Milanese relics and the construction of the city
  • 2. The Sacellum of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro and the birth of the cult of Ambrose
    • Plates
    • A controversial edifice
    • Images and relics
    • The image in the apse?
    • Victor’s apotheosis
  • 3. Exile in Genoa, the relics of Ambrose, the Lombards, and the year 600
    • The Milanese bishops in exile
    • The cult of the relics of Ambrose in Milan
  • 4. The golden altar and the Carolingians in Milan
    • Plates
    • A resplendent reliquary
    • The Milanese relics and Carolingian Milan
  • 5. The apse narrative: Rome and the Empire
    • Plates
    • A martyrised mosaic
    • A new story for an ancient apse
    • Ambrose, Martin, and the unity between Lombardy and the Empire
    • Ambrose’s true face
    • Conclusion: Ambrose, his body, his image, and ethnic inclusion
  • 6. The Sant’Ambrogio ciborium and the eclipse of Milan
    • Plates
    • A decorative palimpsest
    • An object and its context: the view from the nave
    • The Milanese saints raised to glory
    • A royal coronation in Milan?
  • Conclusion. Ambrose before Barnabas (and after Dario Fo)
  • Bibliography
  • Index of names
  • Index of places

Cover illustration: St Ambrose, Southside of the golden altar, Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan, 824-859 (© Domenico Ventura).

Ivan Foletti

Ivan Foletti is professor of art history at Masaryk University, Brno, where he specializes in the study of the historiography of Byzantine studies and in the art of Milan, Rome, and the Caucasus in the Late Antique and Early Medieval period. He is the head of the Center for Early Medieval Studies in Brno, editor-in-chief of Convivium, and director of the Hans Belting Library.

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