Walking into the crypt of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Milan, knowing the history of this place, can be an overwhelming experience.
Think about the white, polished stones under your feet: they once paved the city’s 4th-century, Roman forum – which means Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine and Emperor Theodosius all probably walked over them just like you.
Or think about the fact that for hundreds of years this early-11th-century church was considered “umbilicus civitatis”, the real city center. Indeed, in a famous perspective view in his “Codex Atlanticus”, Leonardo da Vinci places it at the exact heart of 15th-century Milan.
Finally, consider that the crypt was inaccessible for fifty years, and is reopening to the public this year.
Inside the crypt, you can admire a 14th-century statue of the tomb of Jesus, facing a 17th-century polychrome statue representing Saint Charles Borromeo kneeling.
Speaking of Saint Charles, we can add one more mind-boggling fact: the archbishop of Milan used to come down into the crypt to pray every Wednesday and Friday afternoon.
But before the historical facts overwhelm you, take a moment to appreciate the sheer beauty of this peaceful place.
The crypt is open to the public every day from 12am to 8pm. Entrance fee is 10 euro.