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You can also enter the basilica from the back, next to the great portal of the Catholic University, but I suggest entering from the front by going down a few steps and using the portico before the façade.

Before entering the portico, you'll see a white, Roman, marble column on your left: according to an ancient legend, its round holes were caused by the Devil's horns, as he was furious for not being able to make the incorruptible St. Ambrose commit any sins. It is said that even today the holes smell of sulfur, and that if you place your ear against the marble you can hear the sounds of hell!


Now you are in the so-called quadriporticus, the entrance courtyard where an atmosphere of peace and piety reigns. In ancient times this area was reserved to the pagans who aspired to convert to Christianity and would gather here waiting to be baptized. When they began to baptize the faithful from birth after 1000, this place became the seat of religious and political assemblies. If you look at the top of the columns, you'll see that the capitals are carved with figures of monsters and fantastic animals.


The façade in front of you is the most typical example of the gabled double-hitched style, and is made of poor materials, brick, stone, and white plaster. The Bishop gave his blessing to the citizens and the Mayor could address the crowd from the upper loggia. The two square bell towers are from different ages. The bell tower on the left, known as "dei Canonici" contains 5 bells, one of which plays every Friday at 3 to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus.


I recommend entering the basilica from the door on the left where you will see a bas-relief with an ancient image of Saint Ambrose, who seems to welcome those who come to see him in his church with open arms.


FUN FACT: you can see a mysterious red and white checkerboard placed at an angle, which is perhaps a symbol linked to the order of the Templar Knights, underneath the "dei Monaci" bell tower on the right. The alternation of different colored boxes is surely a symbol of the eternal struggle between good and evil.

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