Origins and Foundation
In medieval Vimercate this particular place was located right outside of the city walls and from the very beginning it offered refuge and assistance to travellers and pilgrims.
1052: The Beginnings
The following structures were already in existence since 1052: L' ORATORIO DI S. GIACOMO dei Pellegrini (Oratory of Saint James of the Pilgrims) on the north side along the present Via Cereda. The church and hospital of S. GIOVANNI (Saint John), founded in 1140 as the HOSPITALE DE S. JOHANNIS DE BURGO FORIS ET PROPE VICOMERCATO, built on the previous site of the house of Ginesmerio dei Vimercati.
After 1200: The Friars
In the first half of the thirteenth century Franciscan friars from the nearby monastery in Oreno, traditionally believed to have been visited by the "Poor Friar of Assisi" (1182- 1226), founded the new Franciscan monastery, originally under the " Custody of Monza" . It increased in importance and was occupied by" Lectors and Maestri" , as stated in some documents of the thirteenth century. As time passed, it received legacies from both poor and wealthy (including Francesco Sforza in 1450 during a stay in Vimercate).
1300-1500: Milanese Rulers
The "Madonna del Latte" and the War Between The Visconti and The Della Torre Families In one of the frescos in the Convent there is an ornament showing the coats of arms of both the Visconti and the Della Torre families. Historical considerations make it possible for us to date this fresco to about 1311 when a truce between the two families was finally signed on the day of Epiphany of that year. The truce between the two Milanese families was guaranteed by the Emperor, Henry VII. This provides an interesting trace of the political events of that period.
Francesco Sforza and the Chapel of Saint John
In 1456 Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, provided a special grant with an annual offering of fifty florins, founding the " Cappellania di San Francesco" (The Chapel of Saint Francis) in the church, which in the meantime had been dedicated to this Saint.
1798: From Napoleon to the Banfi Family
In 1798 the Monastery, suppressed by the Cisalpine Republic, was put on auction and purchased in 1799 by the Feudal Mayor of Vimercate, Dr. Giuseppe Banfi. He conceded the use of the Monastery to the six remaining Minor Friars, supporting them for life. After wards he transformed the Monastery into a residence. Since then the Banfi family has always inhabited it and used it for reunions. The very special atmosphere of the place is also linked to this aspect, where the normal daily life of a family continues naturally to this day within the thousand year old walls.