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The Garden of the Virgins: a women-only oasis in the heart of Milan

The Garden of the Virgins owes its name and fame to Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, to whom the garden itself was dedicated back in 1928. It is located inside the Catholic University of Milan. nearby the Saint Ambrogio basilica, where the Devil’s Column stands.

Santa Caterina was a an Egyptian young girl of noble origins who refused to marry the Roman emperor Massimino and was sentenced to death through the torture of the cogwheel. She died a virgin and she is known to be the patron saint of studies and of some social categories of education, hence the name of the garden.

It is literally an oasis surrounded by walls and its only access is through a glass door right next to the main entrance of the University’s auditorium.

Female students are the only ones allowed into the garden and the security guards of the university have the task to ensure that male students do not even dare to gain access to this area of the facility.

Who is writing never had the chance to step into this garden for the above reasons but some female friends have described it as a well ordered and decorated backyard whith flowers, bushes and trees.

The garden also features some archeological pieces of art:

“Among them, particular attention is to be devoted to three capital columns, which are similar for kind, dimension and material to the columns in the “Monks’ Crypt” below the 16th century Refectory (today’s Aula Magna). Other capital fragments in the Garden are similar to capitals from Lombardy factories, such as those of St. Ambrogio’s Rectory, of S. Maria presso S. Satiro in Milan and of the Dome in Pavia. These fragments are referred to Bramante for the foliage decorative model with Ionic spirals, particularly popular in 1480 Lombard culture. The twenty one stone blocks and two columns are in granite of Montorfano dating back to 16th-17th centuries and are subsequent to the building of the monastery.”

(from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore’s website)

The Garden of the Virgins is then one of the best kept secrets of the city of Milan, or at least for half of its population…

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