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The Church was founded on the 10th September 1463 on land belonging to Count Gaspare Vimercati, Commander of Francesco

Sforza's French troops. It was constructed beside a rectangular chapel dedicated to "Madonna delle Grazie" which is still standing. The Church and monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie were built according to a design by Guiniforte Solari between 1465 and 1482. Only the main part of the nave and side aisles are a reminder of the original architectural structure which was a typical example of late Gothic-Lombard artistic talent. Architect Solari was one of the most famous representatives of the style of this epoch. Inside the church a nave and two side aisles bordered by chapels form a traditional constituent plan although additional innovatory renaissance elements are visible: columns rather than pillars and paintings decorating the central nave. From 1490 important architectural modifications were carried out according to the desire of Ludovico il Moro to transform the church into a family mausoleum. For this reason the Duke'ttention was concentrated on Santa Maria delle Grazie and caused him to call the greatest creative artists of that time to court. Bramante was charged with constructing a new apse to substitute Solari's presbytery and Leonardo da Vinci given the commission to paint the fresco of the Last Supper. Solari instead was meant to sculpt the marble cover of the sepulchre of Lodovico and his wife Beatrice to be placed in the centre of the choir. The ambitious programme of Lodovico il Moro which included the reconstruction of the faade and part of the nave was never completed due to Beatrice's sudden death in 1497 and the fall of Lodovico's government in 1499 led to the suspension of the work. Only the apse, sacristy and fresco of the Last Supper had already been completed. Today these very important works of art, notwithstanding profound changes and serious bomb damage on the 16th August 1943 which destroyed the library and "chiostro dei morti" (cloister of the dead), are still significant examples of Renaissance Milan. The church, monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Last Supper are included in the UNESCO list of "World Cultural Heritage" sites to be protected. The apsidal area giving on to via Caradosso added on in 1492 is particularly well known and is considered by modern critics to have been projected by Donato Bramante. Less than ten years after the completion of the church designed by Solari, Lodovico il Moro decided to carry out a radical architectural intervention with the precise aim of creating a temple-mausoleum, a separate majestic edifice connected to the body of the nave Notwithstanding the lack of documents concerning the paternity of the project stylistic considerations convinced experts and art critics that Bramante was responsible for the structure. The apse has a cubic base, with a prominent parallelepiped surmounted by the six sided drum of the cupola, bearing lateral supports of the apsidal area around the presbytery. A loggia with arches resting on twin columns but without trabeation supports the roof. There is an interesting marble portal off the faade. Radical restoration work was set in motion by Luca Bertrami and started in 1895 after the adjoining Dominican monastery (Milanese seat of the Inquisition from 1553 to 1778) was no longer used as a barracks and demolition work had begun On the inside it is immediately possible to distinguish the two parts. The Gothic legacy is visible in the nave, side aisles and chapels and is decorated by master painters. The extensive luminous space around the presbytery inspired by Bramante under the dome is manifestly monumental Classical style enhanced by the marvellous polychrome

ornamentation and graffito. Above the choir in inlaid wood dating from the end of the 15th century is a splendid umbrella vault. The raised altar area leads to the parts of the convent, renovated by Bramante, that can be visited: the delicate small cloister from which there is a striking view over the presbytery and "Sagrestia Vecchia"(old sacristy) a rectangular ambience lined with inlaid, painted cupboards dating from the Renaissance under a vault frescoed with a design of Leonardesque knots. The portal from the cloister has an inlaid wooden door and lunette frescoed by Bramantino.