• Europe /
  • Italy /
  • Milan

The writer’s church in Milan

A unique place related to Alessandro Manzoni, the eternal poet and writer of "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed)

<p>View of San Fedele Square (by Angelino 1975, CC BY-SA 4.0 via WikiCommons)</p>

Just a few steps away from the bustling Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, there is a church, namely San Fedele. 

Architect Pellegrino Tibaldi initiated the structure at the behest of Archbishop Carlo Borromeo, who was at the time one of the exponents of the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church in the 16th century CE. The building was consecrated incomplete, and its construction proceeded for about another century under the supervision of several architects. 

However, this structure is linked to one of Milan’s most famous characters, Alessandro Manzoni.

Painting of Alessandro Manzoni by Francesco Hayez

Alessandro was an Italian writer, poet and playwright who lived in 19th-century CE Milan. He is considered one of the greatest Italian novelists of all time for his famous novel ‘I Promessi Sposi’ (The Betrothed), a cornerstone of Italian literature. Manzoni had the main merit of having laid the foundations for the modern novel and thus patronised Italian linguistic unity in the wake of the morally and civilly committed literature of the Italian Enlightenment.

Frontispiece of the second edition of Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed (1840) (Francesco Gonin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The church of San Fedele particularly represents Alessandro Manzoni’s life, as he was a profound believer, and used to go there often to pray.

However, on the same steps at the church entrance, Manzoni suffered a head injury when he fell, hitting his head on the steps. Due to subsequent complications, he later died of meningitis in 1873.

The monument dedicated to the writer was erected in the centre of the square in 1883. The church, built in the 16th century, has been recognised as an example of Counter-Reformation sacred architecture because it is very close to the instructions of San Carlo Borromeo. A decidedly evocative church that is closely linked to the life of Alessandro Manzoni, albeit for a decidedly unfortunate event.

Statue of Alessandro Manzoni in San Fedele Square (by Picone Fabio, CC BY-SA 4.0 via WikiCommons)

Today, the body of Alessandro Manzoni rests in the ‘Monumentale’ cemetery of Milan, together with other prominent figures. His tomb is located in the “Famedio”, a name derived from the Latin “famae aedes”, i.e. ‘temple of fame’, a section of the cemetery’s main entrance, in an elevated position and reached by a large staircase.

From 1869, the Famedio became a burial place for ‘illustrious’ or ‘well-deserving’ Milanese (by birth or adoption).

Ptolemy Team
Last updated on
November 17, 2022

Ptolemy Team

All our content is conceived and written by our editorial team, consisting of students and recent graduates in Cultural Heritage, Ancient and Medieval History, and Arts.