The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie was begun in 1465 to a plan by Guiniforte Solari. Just two years after it was finished in the 1480s, Ludovico 'il Moro' Sforza commissioned architect Donato Bramante to turn the church into a family mausoleum in the new Renaissance style; this work was never completed. (Some experts doubt Bramante was involved in the project at all, or accord him only a minor, preliminary planning role.) So down came Solari's apse and up went a Renaissance tribune in its place. At the same time, the adjoining Dominican monastery was given the chiostrino (small cloister) and a new sacristy.
The monks ran an active branch of the Inquisition in their monastery from 1553 to 1778, and continued to endow their church with decorative elements. During Napoleon's suppression of religious congregations during the late 18th century, the complex was turned into barracks and a military warehouse. Control of the church was returned to the Dominican monks in 1905. In 1943, bombing destroyed the great cloister of the monastery but fortuitously spared the three walls of the refectory, including the one with Leonardo's Last Supper, and the chiostrino.
The terracotta façade of the church is in the best Lombard tradition; the portal is attributed to Bramante. Inside, Solari's Gothic leanings in the three-aisled nave clash with the fresco-covered arches and Bramante's more muscular, massive style. Standing out among works by leading local artists from the 15th to 17th centuries is an altarpiece (in the sixth chapel on the left) showing the Holy Family with St Catherine by 16th-century Venetian painter and student of Titian, Paris Bordone. The carved wooden choir stalls in the apse date from 1470. The gardens provide a welcome, relaxing atmosphere after the bustle and crowd in the piazza outside the church. During mass the cloisters can be reached through a door in via Caradosso 1 (same opening times as the church).