The Ossuary of San Bernardino in Milan, Italy

Stunned Meditation

My visit to the Ossuary of San Bernardino in Milan was one of the most profoundly impactful of my life. I often steer clear of places where large numbers of human remains have been laid (visibly) to rest. My presence somehow seems disrespectful as I and others gawk in our tourist’s stupor, so acutely aware of how quickly our vacation is slipping away. Truth be told, I have always been a bit freaked out by the idea as well. I have always been a bit…sensitive to things many others don’t seem to pick up on. I’m not talking about some sort of Shirley MacLaine, out-of-body experience, but I also don’t so much discount people and their other-worldly experiences.

When I entered the small chapel, I was overwhelmed. It’s hard to describe what went on there. Mostly it was quiet. I sat down. Many people came and went, some were solemn, some giggled, some prayed. I sat there for perhaps an hour and a half before I even realized what had happened. Thousands upon thousands of hollow, vacant eyes stare down at you, no matter where you are. The gaze of the dead is inescapable, it closes in on you and somehow they WERE ACTUALLY watching me. I could feel those eyes penetrate to my very soul, my walls were no use in this place. The interesting thing was, how un-judged I felt…and that feeling was very specific.

Two things permeate the space; that eternal gaze of the dead and the sacred heart. Both of these overwhelm. The message is clear to Catholics, but it had a different call for me. Life is so very, very short. Find your heart Brian, before it’s too late.

The people in the Ossuary didn’t die especially good deaths, nor were they in many cases good people, but I so desperately hope they have found peace.

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 4 April, 2014
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Location: 45° 27.7483′ 0″ N 9° 11.7518′ 0″ E
  • Shutter speed: 3.2s
  • Title: The Ossuary of San Bernardino alle Ossa in Milan, Italy

Walking the Roof of Il Duomo at Sunset

Il Duomo at Sunset

I suppose it depends on the time of year you go, but I went to the room if Milan’s major Cathedral, I stayed up there for a long time. It neared sunset when the guards ran the last of us off and followed us out. It was peaceful up there and not terribly crowded. There is a something special about getting to wander the roof of such and old and central building like Il Duomo. The history of European cities can often be paralleled to the history of their main Church. This is perhaps the single most important structure in the entire city, and I spent the evening in the heavens.

Old Processes

At times I miss the darkroom. The smell of fixer is something you don’t forget. The chemistry one of the things that originally drew me to photography. I found never-ending joy in trying to find new and creative ways to splatter my chemicals to get an uneven result. Eyedroppers, spray bottles, tossing chemicals…I was manipulating WAY before I found Photoshop. I used quite a few processes to get this result today, but I was going for a modern day wet-plate look. How do you think I did?

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 5 April, 2014
  • Focal length: 32mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s
  • Title: Walking the Roof of Il Duomo at Sunset

Entrance to the Crypts of Il Duomo

Closed Entrance

This entrance to the lower levels of Il Duomo in Milan, Italy was closed. There seemed to be several entrances that were not open to the public. The main public stairs to the crypts of two Saints were around the corner and quite busy. I wondered if people visiting knew where they were headed and the stories of the men who’s tombs we visited. I wonder this because my particular knowledge of European Saints is a bit limited, but I tend to follow where groups of people are headed to see what I can see. I wonder how many people go with purpose and how many go with the flow, both in life and in visiting the dead.

Photo Technical Info

Outside the Walls of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy

Visiting The Last Supper

On my last visit to Milan, I went to Santa Maria della Grazie, the church where DaVinci painted The Last Supper. I was surprised by its impact, both historically and the almost wonderfully horrific deterioration it faces. I wonder if Leonardo knew people would be viewing this work for over 500 years. He was going for more detail and luminosity then can be achieved with normal wet fresco techniques and instead painted on a dry wall. It isn’t really a fresco, and given your perspective, the ages have not been kind. I have always wondered how much of this was intended and how much was simply an experiment in technique. Was Leonardo chuckling to himself the entire time I painted the last supper? Is there hidden meaning, in the fight to keep everything from falling apart…something part of a grander design?

The painting is on one wall of the dining hall of the monastery. You only get 15 minutes with the work (and the Crucifixion on the opposite wall by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano). Security is TIGHT…I have never been anywhere with multiple automatic man traps. At your allotted time, you enter and get locked in, then another door opens, you move to the next trap and get locked in. Eventually the dining hall is opened and your small group is allowed inside (no photography of course due to the delicate nature of the art). Fifteen minutes was not enough time for me…I could have stayed and stared and felt much longer.

Walking the parameter

Walking to the metro, I walked around the perimeter walls of the monastery. This shot is from the street outside one of the courtyards.

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 5 April, 2014
  • Focal length: 19mm
  • ISO: 500
  • Location: 45° 27.9857′ 0″ N 9° 10.2992′ 0″ E
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000s
  • Title: Outside the walls of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy

Old Bicycle on the Streets of Milan, Italy

Thinking about Old Bicycles

Bicycles are all over Milan. The tourists never seem to be riding them, but the locals use them to speed past all the transient gawkers that visit their beloved city. I was surprised at all the bikes I saw and by their relatively old ages. I for some reason never took the ultra fashionable Milanese to use this mode of transport. If they did, I feel like any bicycle they SHOULD be riding must be embroidered with the LV logo.

This old bicycle stopped me for two reasons. First, it’s old, secured with an old chain and a much newer lock. The texture of the building and the rusty security gate on the window were the other. Throw in a harsh shadow, the wonderfully textured sidewalk and the simplicity, you have photo magic! Scott Kelby said something recently in a random video (and I am wildly paraphrasing)…if something stops you, there is something there. Work the scene! I have been trying to keep this in mind as I travel all over. I am working on paying attention to things that stop me and asking why. There is beauty all around and sometimes it’s nice to simply pay attention.

Photo Technical Info

Il Duomo’s Main Door in Milan, Italy

Il Duomo’s Main Door is a Bronze Masterpiece

Hulking and overwhelming is the main door of Il Duomo in Milan; much as the cathedral itself. It’s raw size is imposing and perhaps more than any other, Milan’s Cathedral most reminded me of La Sagrada Familia with its explosion of scenes, excess of fruits, stories, vegetables, insects and animals. I still don’t know how I felt about Gaudi’s Cathedral in Barcelona. Perhaps the overwhelming scale is most to be admired in both. Oscar Wilde was more harsh in his criticism of Il Duomo…I don’t think I will go so far as he, but I think my heart will always lie with Notre Dame. Regardless, the bronze work, in all its busyness is a masterpiece.

Photo Technical Info