It was the 15th of August of the year 1603: in the Porta Ludovica district, on the bridge leading to the sanctuary of Santa Maria dei Miracoli presso San Celso. A baker's boy was selling pastries, unaware of the fact that he was about to be fined and still more unaware of the fact that he would go down in history, thus becoming a small part of a larger image that, through the work of the Veneranda Fabbrica, illustrates the events of the city of Milan.
The episode is recorded in a document preserved in the Archives (AS111, f.30, no.1). It is a report submitted by a public official to the governing body of the Veneranda Fabbrica, that in fact states the following facts: “On the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin […] having found the errand boy of Luca Antonio d’Affori, an offellaro (pastry baker) on the bridge of Porta Ludovica in Milan leading to the Madonna of Santo Celso, selling offelle (a type of pastry) and other pastry products, and having asked him if he had the licence that is normally issued, he said that he did not have any licence and so the official took the basket in which the pastries described above were placed, and delivered the basket into the hands of the Munitioner of the said Fabbrica in Camposanto, in virtue of the order given him orally and in writing by the judges of the pastry bakers […]”. The subsequent documents record how the matter developed and the imposing of a substantial cash fine to be paid by the employer for whom the unlucky errand boy worked. What was the reason for this fine? And how was the Veneranda Fabbrica involved?
To understand this, we can easily consult the other documents preserved in the Archives, starting from the letters patent dated 1487 in which Gian Galeazzo Maria Sforza confirmed, at the request of the pastry bakers themselves, the regulations related to the licence to practice the trade of pastry making. In fact, pastry bakers were prohibited from selling pastries on Sundays and specific feast days, including the Feast of the Assumption. The letters patent also state that offenders would be punished by a fine to be paid to the Veneranda Fabbrica, to which moreover anyone wishing to practice the arte d’offellaro (trade of pastry making) had to pay a fee. These regulations are confirmed and greater details are given in the subsequent centuries too, up until the 17th century – as the story of the errand boy proves – as well as in the 18th century, when the trade guilds originating in the late middle ages ceased to operate.
It is therefore confirmed – throughout this long period – that the Fabbrica, due to its great mission, stably played a key role in the life of the city, as an interface between the institutional power on the one hand and the many corporative bodies (paratici, universitates, artes, schole,… that is guilds, universities, trades, schools) on the other hand, probably because the latter considered the Fabbrica to be a guarantor much closer to their interests than the various - and at times foreign – Lords of Milan were.
The Archives, in section VIII Università e Paratici or Universities and Guilds (1395-1790), preserves the precise records of this role of the Fabbrica within the city, providing detailed evidence of the activities not only of the pastry bakers, but also of the porters, barbers, apothecaries and other trades too.