Milan’s Skeleton Cathedral
Milan, Italy is known for high fashion, runway shows, models and Duomo, a giant picturesque cathedral in the center of the city. During my time spent living in Milan I became friendly some obscure locals that shared my interest in weird things, and thats how I became acquainted with Milan’s Skeleton Cathedral.
Enter San Bernardino alle Ossa is the official name of Milans’s skeleton cathedral. From the outside, a small worn down looking church resting in the shadows of the great Duomo.
From the outside and even after you enter the church is nothing to be admired. Small, and dingy and nothing compared to most great churches in the area.
“Follow where the angels point” were the instructions from the local patrons of a tattoo shop. Not a soul was in the church, it was oddly quiet, even for a church. With the angels directing us, we headed through a door at the end of a shadowy hall.
The room was dark and filled with candle smoke, the only light provided by candles and a few skylights in the high ceiling. A few rows of old wooden pews fill the room, at the front of the a small podium covered in half melted candles sat behind a wooden barrier.
Every wall is lined from the floor up with the bones and skulls of ancient Italians. With nothing but chicken wire stopping you from touching the bones.
I spent about an hour in this room just staring and taking pictures, then immediately went back to my apartment and began to research what and why this was.
In the early thirteenth century, the graveyard had run out of room. The keepers of the cemetery started stacking the bones of the newly deceased in sort of medieval storage closet. Locals gathered in front of the room to remember lost loved ones before the Skeleton Cathedral’s completion 60 years later.
A newer, bigger church sits next to the Skeleton Cathedral after the original almost burnt to the ground. After some renovations Milan’s Skeleton Cathedral was dedicated to St Bernardino.
Most of the locals don’t even know Milan’s skeleton cathedral exists, its not advertised in any guides. I became a guide myself for some locals that I had befriended. They were just as amazed by it as I was. You don’t always have to travel far to find something amazing, it could be in your backyard.
Other Resources for Traveling to Milan.