San Fedele’s Sacristy is one of the most remarkable examples of its kind in Milan, representative of the style that flourished between the Counter-Reformation and the Baroque period. The room was designed by the architect Francesco M. Richini (1584-1658) and built in the 1620s. The carved works in walnut wood are by the brothers Taurino (who also created the confessionals in the church) and were executed over a period of thirty years.
The sacristy is a showcase of the durable qualities of wood: after four centuries, it is still polished, magnificent and yet intimate. It was built according to strict guidelines as outlined by Charles Borromeo in his Instructiones (Directives for church building and decoration) of 1577. The access is through a door surmounted by wood carvings and with a sink in red marble for ablutions on the side.
Inside, the room comes alive with the poetry of the decorations embellishing the armoires along the walls: figures of people and animals, garlands of leaves and flowers adorn the five panels, two of which project out and are the most ornate, each separated from the next by a pillar with a cherub supporting the capital. The Christogram IHS (symbol of the Jesuits) surmounted by the effigy of Jesus as a baby with arms stretched and a globe in his left hand, is repeated at regular intervals on the panels.
The most remarkable part of the entire work is the section around the main door: a panel representing Jesus addressing the crowd, a jewel in the crown of this precious room. Higher up on the ornamental frieze of the armoires sit eight portrait busts of Jesuits already beatified or canonised in the early 17th century: Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Francis Borgia, Louis Gonzaga and the Blessed martyrs of Japan. At the other end of the room, framed by their niches stand two life-size portrait statues, one of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Order and the other of Francis Xavier, co-founder and pioneer missionary in Asia.