Palazzo dell’Arcivescovado

Place of the meeting between the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale and Benito Mussolini to negotiate his surrender of 25th April 1945.

Piazza Fontana is where the palazzo arcivescovile di Milano is located. It was restored in the 16th century by Pellegrino Tibaldi on behalf of Carlo Borromeo, and its facade was reconstructed in the 18th century by Giuseppe Piermarini, who designed the fountain at the center of the homonymous square.

Here is where, starting from 1929, the bishop Ildefonso Schuster, a Roman with Bavarian origins, served his term. He tried to avoid being involved with fascism as much as possible, refusing its antisemitic stance and the racial laws, but blessed its flags and insignia. During the war, Schuster sent a telegram in latin to the bishop of New York Spellman in which he asked him to intercede with the American army and stop the bombings of the cities (a telegram which remained unanswered). Then, Schuster tried to obtain a role for himself in the last phase of the German occupation, in order to avoid destruction and massacres as well as a “communist-bolshevik insurrection”.

From September-October 1944, the palace hosted secret encounters between the bishop and the Germans. The bishop officially offered his services as a mediator between the nazi command and the CLN, on the condition that the Germans would abstain themselves from destroying or sabotaging Italy’s industries and the partisans would avoid any attacks or sabotages against the Germans.

However, the CLNAI refused to comply with the bishop’s request not to attack the Wehrmacht troops during their future retreat.
In his book Gli ultimi tempi di un regime, Schuster recalls the visit of the German ambassador Rahn on 19th April 1945, the visit of Marshall Graziani of 22nd April who spoke for a long time, «as southerners use to do», and the one with Consul Wolff. The most important day, historically speaking, was the afternoon of 25th April 1945, when Mussolini entered the building together with Graziani and others to have a meeting with representatives of the CLNAI. Before that, he had a private chat with the bishop (who offered him a small glass of rosolio and a copy of “life of Saint Benedict”). As we know, when the CLNAI demanded his unconditional surrender, Mussolini asked for an hour of time to give an answer, went back to the prefecture and decided to head to Como.

Another contact between the bishop’s assistants and the German colonel Rauff occurred on 26th April. The act that established the final liberation of Milan was brought in the Arcivescovado by Antonio Greppi, new mayor of the liberated city of Milan, despite the opposition of the left wing parties of CLNAI. The visit, described as “kind”, lasted half an hour and ended with the mayor gifting the bishop with a book about St Ambrose. It was 29th April 1945.
Guido Lorenzetti