As of Wednesday, 18 October the workers of the Veneranda Fabbrica have been busy with one of the operations that for centuries has been overseen with extraordinary care and expertise upon the approach of the Solemnity of St. Charles Borromeo, which occurs every 4 November: the mounting of the "quadroni' dedicated to the life and miracles of the holy bishop. Until the end of November worshippers and visitors entering the Duomo will have the opportunity to admire the majestic canvases dedicated to the life and miracles of St. Charles, Pastor of the Ambrosian Church from 1560 to 1584.
The exhibition of the quadroni in the aisles of the Cathedral features the 56 canvases which are subdivided into a cycle made up of two sequences: The Life of Blessed Charles and that of The Miracles of St. Charles Borromeo.
The first sequence was commissioned by the Veneranda Fabbrica on occasion of the beatification of Charles Borromeo on 4 November 1602. The cousin of the saint, Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Federico Borromeo, dictated the theme of the large paintings, 28 in all: the life story of St. Charles and the defining moments of his time on Earth. These works were completed by the most well-established painters in Milan at the time: first and foremost among them Giovanni Battista Crespi known as the Cerano and responsible for the dramatic Visita agli appestati [Visit to the victims of the plague], Paolo Camillo Landriani known as the Duchino, Giovan Battista and Giovanni Mauro of the Rovere known as the Fiammenghini, Carlo Buzzi, and Domenico Pellegrini. These six painted the largest canvases (6 meters x 4.75 meters).
Meanwhile, the 24 canvases of the Miracles are part of the second sequence and were first displayed in the Duomo in 1610, next to the quadroni, on occasion of Charles' canonization. The canvases of this second part of the cycle were painted by the most admired artists in Milan, some of whom were also responsible for canvases in the first series, including Cerano, Giulio Cesare Procaccini, responsible for six canvases including The Miracle of John Baptist Tirone, the Duchino, the Fiammenghini, alongside artists like Carlo Buzzi and Giorgio Noyers. Other canvases were added to the series in the 18th century.
The effect that these enormous and extraordinary paintings must have had on worshippers who came all the way to the Duomo in centuries past must have been remarkable: an emotion that comes alive once again for all those who enter the Cathedral.