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Hidden City

The Chessboard of Sant’Ambrogio

Worlds of legend lie silent in our city, waiting for the curious to uncover them

Visitors to Milan all know the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, one of the oldest Romanesque basilicas in Milan. We’ve all passed by it, either while visiting during some trip, or on our way to class if you went to Unversità Cattolica.

The legend of the Devil’s column that is right next to Sant’Ambrogio is one of the basilica’s most repeated pieces of folklore. Ambrogio angered the devil who responded by sticking his horns into the column. There are two small holes from which it is said you can smell sulphur on All Saint’s Day.

But not everyone knows about the ancient chessboard that decorates the facade of the basilica. Many theories have arisen about the meaning of this symbol, and how it got there.

The chessboard, in Christian symbolism, is a picture that confuses the devil. So it has been designed in order to keep him away, being placed at the entrance next to the door.

Entering the church you’ll see another chessboard. Why? Another theory is that the chessboard was the symbol of the Knights Templar. Maybe this Cavalry Order wanted to leave its mark on one of the oldest Basilicas in Milan?

Fascinating theories and hidden mysteries that catapult us into legendary worlds that are silent in our city waiting for someone curious to uncover them.

We can't. That's why every week we share the best experiences milan has to offer.

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