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8 November Nov 2017 1507 14 days ago

The Scurolo of St. Carlo inside the Duomo di Milano

The 4th of November was the Feast of Saint Carlo Borromeo: let’s explore one of the most evocative corners of the Cathedral

Saturday, 4th of November, at 9:30am, Archbishop Mons. Mario Delpini celebrated the pontifical holiday of the Feast of Saint Carlo Borromeo, Co-patron of the diocese, and appointed five new permanent deacons in service to the Church of Milan.

For days the “Scurolo”, the area of the church which houses the remains of Saint Carlo, has been the destination of worshippers who come to visit the Cathedral as the liturgical memorial of the "great shepherd" approaches.

The "Scurolo" (a name derived from the dialectical term scuroeu, or rather small church or underground chapel, a space that is usually dark or "scuro") is located under the Duomo's presbytery, next to the crypt (Cappella Iemale). It was designed in 1606 by Francesco Maria Richini, upon commission by Cardinal Federico Borromeo. It was already sufficiently completed and decorated in time for the canonization of the saint (1st November 1610), thus becoming a tribute to Saint Charles on behalf of the residents of Milan and their archbishops.

The small octagonal space, with sides of alternatingly unequal lengths, was originally topped by a large skylight or "well": a classical pseudo-pronaos precedes the Scurolo and separates it from the Cappella Iemale. The bottom portion of the walls of the Scurolo are decorated in onyx-walnut, with marble mirrors customary of the Milanese Baroque style and with large red gold brocade panels, adorned with the Borromeo crest and the family motto Humilitas. The approval of the embossed silver foil decoration dates back to 1619. The silver covering extends from the feminine figures with symbols of Christian virtue, in the corners, to the "concrete cast hieroglyphs, slabs, and frames, all the way to the large frame that encircles the medals", these last depicting episodes from the life of the saint.The embossing of fifteen and a half quintals, or 1550 kg, of silver took fifty years to complete:while the Veneranda Fabbrica allocated six hundred Lire Imperiali per month to the project, the many citizens of Milan - as well as Milanese goldsmiths, Count Borromeo, and Cardinal Litta (Archbishop of Milan from 1652 to 1679) - also joined together to donate money to the initiative.

The heart of the Scurolo is the crystal urn that preserves the body of Saint Carlo: designed by "il Cerano" (Giovanni Battista Crespi), the piece was donated by Philip IV of Spain. The body of the saint is clad in the pontifical vestments:  his face is covered by a silver mask, by choice of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini who served as Archbishop of Milan from 1954 - 1963.

During his visit to the Duomo on 25 March 2017, Pope Francis took a moment in the Scurolo, gathering himself in prayer before the urn of Saint Charles.