Milan is filled with hidden treasures and Madonna del Grembiule is one of them.
It was the year 1633 and a group of men were rebuilding Santa Maria alla Porta when after a brick wall gave away to reveal a dust-covered fresco of the Madonna. He used his apron to wipe away the dust and the painting miraculously restored itself, which is how the painting came to be known as Madonna del Grembiule, or Madonna of the Apron.
Needless to say the artwork became a venerated symbol among the Milanese so in 1652, they built a chapel in its honor that had a gorgeous marble pastel pink and gray floor. During the centuries, many came here to pay their respects and pray to the Blessed Mother.
Fast forward to the fateful night of August 12 – 13, 1943, when the Allied forces hit Milan with a series of three bombs that did much damage to the city. The chapel dedicated to Madonna del Grembiule was destroyed, among with many other places. Today, the ruins of this chapel still stand and thanks to a large project that was both privately and publicly funded, restorers were able to uncover some of the chapel’s former glory.
Sadly, the original pink and gray marble floor was in pieces, but a credible replica has been reconstructed where the original once stood. The Madonna del Grembiu
le has been restored and repainted in its original place with a sheet of glass over it. Today, these brave the elements al fresco and it’s a very special site to behold. Not only do you get a glimpse of a place that has been so sacred and so dear to the Milanese for so long, but the ruined wall serves as a grim and living reminder of the city’s past and the suffering it endured during the war. History lives, but we move forward, but we can’t fully turn our backs on the past.
Go see it, either before or after you get a cookie fix at Pasticceria Marchesi, one of my favorite places for breakfast and to satisfy a sweet tooth.