Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan: The Legend of the Three Wise Men

The Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan is one of the most renowned churches of the Lombard capital. Second only to the famous Duomo and the equally famous San Lorenzo, it is known above all for the tradition that links it to Epiphany and to the history of the three Wise Men.

The remains of the three Wise Men were in fact preserved in the basilica itself, and there are some remains still today, obtained following a long negotiation with Federico Barbarossa, who decided to transfer the remains to Cologne during the assault on the city. Every year in honor of the Epiphany a historical procession is organized that starts from the Cathedral and takes a route that leads to Sant’Eustorgio, representing the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Jerusalem, with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh for the baby Jesus.

One of the most suggestive churches in the Lombard capital

The Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan, apart from being incredibly beautiful and evocative, full of spiritual charm, has also been (and still is) guardian to the remains of the three Wise Men: Melchiorre, Baldassarre and Gaspare. Legend has it that Saint Eustorgio himself brought them to Milan directly from Constantinople and that they remained in Milan until 1162. With the arrival of Frederick Barbarossa in the city, however, the remains were transferred to Cologne.

Milan was declared ” not worthy” to accept them and from there began a long period of bargaining that managed to get some fragments of the bodies back (a tibia, two fibulae and a vertebra) to the city. To date, the remains of the three Wise Men, at Sant’Eustorgio, are just a few fragments, but the tradition linked to their presence has not been lost: every 6th January an historic procession of the faithful is organized, starting from the Duomo and arriving, precisely, at the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio.

Sant’Eustorgio and the Three Wise Men: what can be seen?

The ritual has been repeated since 1336: in the morning, more or less around 11, the figurative procession begins in which the symbolic “Wise Men ” depart from the Duomo, meet King Herod near the Basilica of San Lorenzo and reach Sant’Eustorgio . Here in the churchyard Jesus awaits them with the whole Holy Family. On the roof of the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan there isn’t in fact a traditional cross, but an eight-pointed star, the star of the Three Kings. A unique peculiarity designed to signal the presence of the remains inside the church.

What else to see in Milan?

If you are interested in the splendid capital of Lombardy and you are looking for something to visit in Italy, our advice on what to see in Milan is definitely in favor of historical / architectural wonders. Not just shopping, therefore. Milan is well known for being the capital of Made in Italy fashion and for this reason journalists reduce it, frivolously, to Navigli, Duomo and Galleria Montenapoleone. All three cornerstones of the city and all three very representative places, but Milan is so much more.

In addition to the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan you can visit enchanting places, from gothic culture to the advanced ultramodern architecture. Here’s what you should not miss:

  • A theatrical show at the Teatro alla Scala
  • A visit to the museums of the Castello Sforzesco
  • A walk in Piazza Gae Aulenti
  • A football match at the majestic San Siro.
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