In the summer of 1943, Allied leaders believed that stepping up bombing attacks on Milan and other northern cities would be instrumental in forcing an Italian surrender. During the August 15-16, 1943 raid, an Allied bomb barely missed hitting the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church in Milan and came close to destroying Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The bomb landed in the courtyard named Cloister of the Dead (indicated by the rectangle), destroying the covered arcade and causing massive damage to the surrounding buildings. The obliteration of the east wall of the refectory (denoted with a straight line) caused the roof to collapse. In 1940, local art officials concerned about this very possibility, had installed sandbags, pine scaffolding, and metal bracing on both sides of the north wall. Only this precaution prevented Leonardo’s masterpiece from collapsing. These spliced photos, taken from the rooftop of the church, are the earliest known images taken.
[Civico Archivio Fotografico, Milano]