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Church of San Cristoforo


San Cristoforo is a picturesque complex composed of two churches. The oldest, the one on the left, arose along the route to Milan from the Lomellina area at a point where there was an obligatory crossing of the waterways. The first church was rebuilt in the Romanesque period (1192) and underwent considerable reconstruction in the 14th century at the same time that work was underway on the Naviglio Grande. A friar by the name of Pietro Franzoni di Tavernasco built a hospice for pilgrims alongside the church around the year 1364, which is when the reconstruction of the church was carried out. The church on the right, commonly known as the Duke’s Chapel or Cappella Ducale dates back to the 15th century. It was built under the patronage of the Duke of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, to honour a vow made by the people of the city upon the sudden disappearance of the plague which in 1399 alone had killed 20,000. The Duke’s Chapel was dedicated not only to San Cristoforo, protector of those suffering from the plague, just like the pre-existing church and hospice, but also to Saints Giovanni Battista, Giacomo, and Beata Cristina, protector of the Viscontis to commemorate their victory over the Armagnacs in Alessandria on 25th July (the feast of San Cristoforo) in 1391. The facade was decorated with the celebrated heraldic emblem of the Visconti family, the snake, beside that of the Comune with its red cross on a white field. The facade of the older church also bears the coat of arms with the cardinal’s mitre and the sun shining among the stars of Cardinal Pietro Filargo (1339-1410), who was bishop of Milan and later pope Alexander V.