The Cloisters of Sant’Eustorgio are located in one of the most significant places from the Ambrosian Church’s viewpoint. Indeed, according to the tradition, it was close to this location that Saint Barnabas christened the first Christians of Milan, thus giving origin to the local Church.
Since the 13th century, the complex hosted the first Dominican monastery of the city, and the two cloisters, in which the Museum of the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio and the Carlo Maria Martini Diocesan Museum are based, are what we have left of that ancient monastery. The first cloister, annexed to the left side of the pre-existing basilica, was built at the end of the third decade of the 13th century. The date of construction of the second cloister is unknown – perhaps, it was built thanks to Filippo Maria Visconti in 1413.
In 1526, following the conflicts between Spanish and French troops, most of the monastery was destroyed and its reconstruction started only a few decades later.
The first cloister currently includes a colonnade, probably the result of a renovation carried out in the 17th century. The second cloister, whose designers might have included architects such as Carlo Buzzi or Francesco Maria Richini, is porticoed on three sides and features fine paired columns made of granite.
In the late 18th century, the Dominican friars moved out and the monastery housed the Napoleonic army first, and the Austrian soldiers then, who caused significant damage. During the 19th century, some restoration works took place, but mostly involved the church, while the cloisters were used as barracks until 1911, when the complex was acquired by the Municipality of Milan. The complex was heavily damaged by the air bombing of 15th August 1943 – the first cloister, the least damaged, was given to the parish, while the north side of the second one had been completely destroyed, and the first floor on the other three sides had been left unroofed.
In 1960, an agreement between the Municipality, the Diocese and the parish was reached to restore the monumental complex, though works only stated in the Eighties.