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by Don Bruno Capparoni

An anonymous member of the Pious Union has offered the restoration of the central door of the Basilica of San Giuseppe, whose history is connected with the Milanese maximum temple. 

OEvery building, without exception, needs periodic maintenance, even churches; if they are works of art, then maintenance is expensive. We preface this brief consideration with the news on the recent restoration of the central door of the Basilica del Trionfale, the sanctuary where we daily invoke our Patron Saint Joseph.  

Ten years have passed since May 26, 2013, when Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, our benevolent friend, blessed the renovated door, enriched with ten bronze panels by the sculptor Benedetto Pierogrande, renamed the "portal of faith". After ten years he appeared in need of conservative surgery. 

A highly specialized company, Progetto Arte Poli of Verona, planned the intervention and proposed an acceptable estimate. A very dear benefactor has given his willingness to take on all the expenses with only two "conditions"; the first was that the offering was in memory of his dearly departed, very devoted to Saint Joseph and members of the Pious Union; the second was to remain anonymous to follow the words of the Gospel: "Let your left hand not know what your right hand is doing." We accepted both, although, from this page, it is necessary to express a big thank you, "strictly anonymous".

Two specialized workers from Arte Poli were guests at the Guanellian community and dedicated an entire week to the restoration work. They dismantled the tiles and treated them, bringing them back to the original shine of the bronze; they spread highly protective paints on the wooden frames and overlapped the lower part (the most deteriorated one) with a copper foil to protect the wood from splashes of rain.  And it was during their work that we were able to better verify some peculiarities of this door, which has an interesting history.

We must return to the time of the construction of the Basilica of Saint Joseph, between 1908 and 1912. The architect Aristide Leonori, after having carried out the design, followed the works with great care, aware that the church would be one of the most beautiful and important buildings built in Rome under the pontificate of Pius Finally there was Don Guanella, aware of the great commitment that the construction of the Trionfale required, anxious to find the necessary capital, but always trusting in divine Providence.

A few years earlier, precisely in 1906, the new central door of the Milan Cathedral, a bronze masterpiece by Lodovico Pogliani, had been inaugurated. Don Guanella had admired it, but had also observed that the old larch doors, which he considered to be the work of Saint Charles Borromeo (more likely a seventeenth-century artefact), lay unused in the warehouse of the venerable Fabbrica del Duomo. He had the intuition to ask for them for the church of the Trionfale and, with the support of Archbishop Cardinal Ferrari and his fame as a saint and philanthropist, he obtained them. 

Transported to Rome in 1911, Don Guanella arranged for them to be adapted to the central door of the new church of San Giuseppe. They were covered on the outside by a wooden cladding, made up of ten rounds, then also reproduced on the two side doors. He would also have liked to affix three medallions, depicting the Madonna (to whom the Milan Cathedral is dedicated), Saint Ambrose and Saint Charles Borromeo, in reference to the origin of the door. We do not know why this project was not followed up. 

However, there was a posthumous "reparation": this "Ambrosian" theme  it has now been reproduced in the new tiles of the current covering.  Looking at the door, at the top left there is the bust of Saint Ambrose and on the right Saint Charles Borromeo; under Saint Ambrose  there is Saint Pius X, to whom we owe the inspiration and financial help to build the church; on the right under San Carlo there is the Madonna with Baby Jesus, which recalls the effigy of the Mother of Divine Providence, so dear to Don Guanella. Going down, the third and fourth bands are dedicated to Josephan themes, with the dream of Saint Joseph, the flight into Egypt, the workshop of Nazareth and the Transit of Saint Joseph. Finally, the panels at the bottom present "Guanellian" themes, with Saint Luigi Guanella and Blessed Chiara Bosatta on the left, the venerable Aurelio Bacciarini, first parish priest and then bishop of Lugano, and Don Leonardo Mazzucchi, second successor of Don Guanella.

The door has regained its original appearance and welcomes those who enter to adore the Lord, pray in the assembly of the brothers and invoke Saint Joseph. We are satisfied and grateful for the recovery of this very noble artefact and for being able to offer in our church a taste of that "beauty that seduces the flesh to obtain permission to pass through to the soul", as we were recently reminded (23 June 2023) Pope Francis, speaking to the artists and quoting Simone Weil.    


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