The present basilica of San Carlo al Corso, considered the final work of the neo-classical movement not only in Milan but also in the whole of Italy, stands on the site of the ancient church of Santa Maria de’ Servi, built in 1317. During the first half of the last century, when the centre of Milan underwent urban renewal, the road linking the Duomo and Porta Orientale (eastern gate) at the time known as Corsia de’ Servi and now called Corso Vittorio Emanuele, gained in importance.
The ancient church of Santa Maria de’ Servi, which projected laterally along the Corsia, was then demolished and building of the new church dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo began in 1839, to a design by the Milanese architect Carlo Amati. Inaugurated in 1847, the basilica, in the neo-classical style, is inspired, in its circular designs, by the Pantheon in Rome: not only in the cupola which is as large as the body of the church, but also the internal exedras and the 36 monolithic Baveno granite columns which border the piazza.
ENTRANCE: the fonts are large valves of seashells (“tridacna”). On the left wall there is a fine fifteenth-century bas-relief of the Lombardy school depicting a Madonna in adoration of the Child Jesus with saints Joseph and Ambrose and an angel musician.
RIGHT-HAND CHAPEL: almost an altar panel, the large bas-relief by Pandiani (1860) depicts Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Lujsa de Marillac and their work of charity.
RIGHT-HAND, OR DEL BEATO, EXEDRA: an urn contains the body of Saint Giovannangelo Porro, of the Servites order, who was born in Barlassina in 1451 and died in Milan in 1505. His life is told in the bas-reliefs (17th century) and in the stained-glass windows (1989). The twoo seventeenth-century paintings are interesting: on the right, The saint receives the Servites habit; on the left, Healing of the young St. Charles by the saint: On the back wall, Glory of the saint, by F. Maccagni (17th century).
ENTRANCE TO THE ROTUNDA: on the left wall there is an admirable tablet by painter of the Piedmont school (16th century) depicting The assumption of the Virgin with the apostles and Saints Sebastian and Benedict.
PRESBYTERY AND APSE: on the high altar the gilded wood crucifix by Pompeo Marchesi, of the Canova school, is the plastic core of the whole architecture . At the entrance to the presbytery, renovated in 1986, stand the statues of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist; at the sides of the altar, the twoo great pastors of the annunciation and evangelisation. The vault has a fresco by A. Inganni (1864), The glory of St. Charles.
CENTRAL BODY AND CUPOLA: the entire central body of the church is crowned by the daring and large round cupola (height 36.90 m; diameter 32.30 m), vaulted by Pizzagalli without the aid of framework, decorated with classic octagonal coffers with a central rosette, and harmoniously enlivened by streamlined Corinthian columns alternating with niches and windows.
LEFT-HAND CHAPEL: a marble group depicting Saint Charles giving Communion to Saint Luigi Gonzaga, by P. Marchesi (1852). Memories of the saint are depicted on the walls.
LEFT-HAND, OR DELL’ADDOLORATA, EXEDRA: this is where the elegant high altar (1727) of the previous Servi church was situated. The Two adoring angels are of particular attraction. The Servites order was the patron, above all from the 17th century onwards, of devotion to the Addolorata, or Our Lady of Sorrows, whom it took as the image inspiring its work of ministration: “together with her next to the endless crosses on Earth