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  • Writer's pictureGeorgiana Tufeanu

Chiesa di Santa Maria alla Fontana

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

You may have heard about a church with miraculous fountains in Milan. It’s one of the most important places in the city. And still, you didn’t quite get it. You might wonder what is the story behind it and what about these miracles? Why everybody talks about it and do they even believe in miracles at all?

This has been the home of Minims friars (of Saint Francis of Paola) and where they took care of the poor and sick. This place was also visited by aristocrats, governors and many other people seeking healing. Many have found it right here.

ceiling of Santa Maria alla Fontana

My suggestion is, see it with your own eyes: the grandeur, the beauty of the decorations and the complexity of this building!

But more than that, come and feel the highly spiritual peace this place will offer to your heart.

Important Tip

If you want to visit the fountains, go there before or after lunch hours before 12 pm and after 4 pm to find them opened.

We will explore:

  1. Architectural Identity: Why you should visit

  2. History of the church

  3. Art

  4. The Miraculous Fountains today

Architectural Identity

Architectural style: Renaissance architecture

Architects: Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, Giovanni Battista Guidabombarda, Francesco Maria Richino

Opened: 1508


It’s composed by: the church (in the upper level) , the sanctuary (where you can find the fountains), the cloisters, and an internal courtyard.

The Sanctuary

The most impressive part of it is the Sanctuary, where the miraculous fountain is located.

Its decorations are impressive: right in the middle of the ceiling, God Father is represented holding in one hand the terrestrial globe, while with the other hand blesses the visitor.

The figure is extremely impressive because of its great craftsmanship.

Made of golden plaster and wood, the luminosity of the figure and its central position shows that indeed, He is the Creator, the center of all things.

Placed in the center of the dome from where twelve segments depicting the 11 Apostles and Saint Paul (replacing Jude) irradiate. They are painted in a bright coloristic taste.

Take a moment in this grandiose place. Reflect in silence on your life and what brought you here and just look at the ceiling. Who knows what it will happen?

The church

The architectural planning and the renovation of the church was entrusted to Giovanni Battista Guidabombarda.

His collaboration with Francesco Maria Richino led to the construction of a cruciform building with four pillars supporting a dome.

The main altar of the church holds the remains of the church’s Patron Saint, the martyr Saint Fortunato.

Even if the church is one of the most famous in the city, you will rarely find it crowded. It’s an unique opportunity to visit a place with such importance for the city and be able to enjoy the charisma of the place.


On the side of the Sanctuary you will find a monument where is written the exact day when the first stone was placed. What an amazing way to read the history!

There is a big square in the front of the church and a nice garden in the right side. As well, after you enter the Sanctuary, outside of the fountains, you will notice a courtyard.

There is a lot of beauty everywhere you look.

The vaults of the arcades were designed to celebrate the glory of Mary, and you can feel that.

Take a look at the vault corresponding to the entrance of the Sanctuary where is still depicted a fresco with Virgin Mary’s Assumption to Heaven.

I suggest you go in the courtyard of the Sanctuary after you visited the interior and have a bigger perspective of the grandeur of this place, considering all the history and events happening here. You will be amazed.

History of the church

Let’s get a step back in time and imagine today’s vibrant district of Isola in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Back then, you could find here forests and fountains, and it was considered outside the city.

In the place were nowadays the church stands, it was a natural depression of the terrain with a source of spring water.

These lands were property of the Benedictine monks and people were coming here to pray even before the construction of the church.

Back then, Milan was under French occupation with Carlo II d’Amboise as governor. History tells us that because of an illness he prayed Virgin Mary in the ancient chapel and promised that he will build a church in case his prayers were listen. And so it was.

He recovered and he constructed what we know today as one of the most visited churched in Milan. The first Mass was celebrated in this Sanctuary in 1508.


La Madonna della Fontana

Inside the Sanctuary, right after the entrance there is a superb painting: La Madonna della Fontana. It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed when in front of it.

The painting is attributed to the Campi brothers, Lombard painters of the sixteenth century. It depicts Virgin Mary surrounded by little angels, holding Baby Jesus.

The Miraculous Fountains today

First of all how to get to see the fountains. So you reached in the front of the church and you have no idea how to get there.

As you look at the church, from the front of the building, walk in the right direction, see a corridor and some stairs. Go down on the stairs and then go left.

Always check the visiting hours beforehand.

What to do when you got there?

There are 11 taps with running water and plastic cups. Take a cup and fill it with a little bit of water from each tap.

Pray, stay in silence (at least try if there are so many people around you). If you want you can fill the cup and go in the front of the beautiful painting of Virgin Mary that is in the same room and simply contemplate.

Rovetta, A, et al (2019) Santa Maria alla Fontana - Milano; 28p; La Grafica-Cantu'

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