is responsible for three large basilicas built outside the city walls: the Basilica Ambrosiana (S. Ambrogio) and the Basilica Apostolorum (S. Nazaro) were completed by 386, and the Basilica Virginum (S. Simpliciano) was planned shortly before his death in 397.54 All three are located on major roads leading into Milan, a building pattern that seems to intentionally echo the extra-urban martyr-basilicas in Rome, as well as serving to house the growing number of converts and pilgrims. The hasty construction and the use of less expensive materials to erect these extra-urban basilicas may indicate that the funding came largely from Ambrose's family.55 But additional support and gifts from Milan's elite adorned these basilicas, as is attested by the elaborate sarcophagus of the unidentified high dignitary in the Basilica Ambrosiana.56

Milan's wealthy, pious men and women, in response to injunctions from their bishop for charity, willingly took on the role of donor and patron in the city. Indeed, Ambrose instructed the bishops under his authority to preach in such a way as to encourage acts of charity: 'Let them [your congregations] learn to search for the riches of good works . . . The beauty of riches is not in the purses of the rich, but in their support for the poor.'57 The upper-class Christian patrons of Milan were encouraged to feel comfortable in continuing their traditional patterns of expenditure on their cities within an approved, Christian context. Even women in Milan, as in Rome, became patrons. So, the wealthy Daedalia, 'distinguished in birth and richly endowed in worldly goods', is praised on her tombstone not only for being a consecrated virgin, but also for her charity toward the poor, for which she earned the title of 'mother of the needy'.58 Her conspicuous burial place in the Basilica Ambrosiana is one further indication of how this city's elite came to play a key role in making Nicene Christianity the dominant source of social prestige for women as well as men.


The spread of Christianity in Italy in the century after Constantine was a largely urban phenomenon. Examining the reaction of three important urban elites in Italy highlights the ways in which Nicene Christianity became normative within Italy's cities. And once Italy's urban elites had converted, they became

54 R. Krautheimer, Three Christian Capitals, 69-71.

55 McLynn, Ambrose of Milan, 69.

56 Matthews, Western aristocracies, 198-200.

57 Ambrose,Letter36[2].26 (CSEL 82^.17), andseeLizzi, 'Ambrose's contemporaries', 156-73.

58 See ILCV1700 for her epitaph and McLynn, Ambrose of Milan, 221-2.

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