Pellegrino Pellegrini, Known as Tibaldi

The favorite artist of St. Charles Borromeo

Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

Saint Charles Borromeo sells the Principality of Oria (1855) by Giuseppe BertiniVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

The arrival of Charles Borromeo at the pulpit of St. Ambrose, in 1565, marked an important and decisive turning-point within religious life in Milan, and thus for the Duomo, which saw years of new fervor.

Borromeo family crest, detail from the altar of Pope Pius IVVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

The still-unfinished Duomo, chaotic in its functionality and liturgical efficiency, became for Saint Charles the symbol and exemplar of his work as a reformer and proponent of art, intended as a medium for educating people and raising them up to God.

Stories of Saint Helena and the finding of the Cross (1570/1577) by Rainaldo da Umbria di Fiandra (?), Valerio Profondavalle, Pellegrino Tibaldi (?)Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

Someone who certainly knew better than anyone else how to translate Charles Borromeo's grandiose plans into reality, through the artistic expression of his time, was Pellegrino Pellegrini (know as il Tibaldi),  Veneranda Fabbrica Architect from July 7, 1567 onward.

Pellegrino Pellegrini, known "as Tibaldi": painter, sculptor, and architect, was born in 1527 in Puria in Valsolda, near Lake Como, trained as an artist first in Bologna, then in Rome.

The time that he spent in Rome from 1547 to 1549 was pivotal and again in 1553, putting him in contact with the work of Michelangelo, from which he drew inspiration for his Monumental and Mannerism works.

Wooden choir

In line with the spirit of renewal of the Counter-Reform, Cardinal Borromeo asked Tibaldi to carry out a substantial transformation of the presbytery and choir.

The project provided for the raising of the High Altar, with a different arrangement for the tabernacle, a new wooden choir for the canons, a marble band around the choir, and the construction of a crypt.

For reasons of ecclesiastical and theological/pastoral discipline, the presbytery was developed on three increasingly high levels, intended for very specific uses and persons.

A first sector, the senatorial choir, separated off by a marble balustrade, was reserved for lay and civic representatives.

An additional staircase gave access to the presbytery proper, and was exclusively reserved for the Archbishop, the Metropolitan Chapter, and for celebrants, with the laity being peremptorily excluded.

The sacred ciborium and tabernacle were placed within the Cathedral during these years, with the high altar also being partially enclosed.

CiboriumVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

The ciborium designed by Tibaldi is  shaped as a small temple, formed from eight gilt bronze columns supporting a cupola crowned with a statue of Christ in glory.

CiboriumVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

It was made by Giovanni Andrea Pellizzione, while Francesco Brambilla (1590), also using Tibaldi's plan, modelled the four angels that support the tabernacle, a gift from Pope Pius IV to his nephew Charles Borromeo.

The pulpits, however, were placed forward, towards the worshippers: but majestic and high, so as to promote and emphasize the importance of preaching, the primary instrument for countering the spread of the Lutheran heresy.

The Canons' Choir, consisting of 71 major stalls in carved walnut wood, presents the Life of Saint Ambrose and the Holy Milanese Martyrs, while the Holy Bishops of Milan are portrayed on the dossals of the minor enclosure.

The stairs in front of the Cathedral's southern Sacristy lead to the Crypt, or Coro Jemale, designed by Pellegrini, with its sumptuous stucco decoration applied to slender surfaces.

All of the work carried out by Pellegrini with regard to the original structure of the temple was placed on hold, as a general consensus was never reached upon it; on the contrary, very lively proceedings and disputes came into being in connection with it.

The Baptistery (1571) by Pellegrino Pellegrini detto il TibaldiVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

Tibaldi also projected the Baptistry, located between pillars within the northern middle nave. An aedicule 24 feet (7.5 m) high with the features of a small temple, with marble columns and a baptismal font made from red porphyry.

Detail of Baptistery designed by Pellegrino Pellegrini (1571) by Pellegrino Pellegrini detto il TibaldiVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

Meanwhile, the great architect's name had started to spread beyond the borders of the Dukedom, and Philip II invited him to Madrid as court painter and architect. He was thus discharged from the fabbrica's service on December 2, 1585.

In Madrid he created a fresco on the vault of the library of the monumental El Escorial monastery, expressing the best of himself within this work, and consolidating his fame as a great artist. He returned to Milan in 1596, was appointed Marquis of Valsolda, and died on May 27 in that same year.

View of the choir exterior from the southern sideVeneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano

The various works commissioned to  Pellegrini from the Fabbrica also included designs for flooring and side altars, which would remodel the Cathedral's interior space.

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