The Duomo

This is an excerpt from the book “Milan” by Enrico Massetti.

Bryce Edwards Duomo di Milano
Photo Bryce Edwards – Duomo di Milano

The Duomo, which traditionally symbolizes the city of Milan, is the most extraordinary example of Italian late Gothic art. It ranks third regarding dimension after the Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and Seville’s Cathedral. Located in the very heart of the city the Duomo di Milano represents both the core of the town and the unavoidable destination of countless visitors from Italy and abroad.

Mark Twain a great fan of the Duomo di Milano, can take over the description (from Innocents Abroad ) from here:

What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate , so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!…

Stained Glass Windows
Stained Glass Windows

The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures– and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest…everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue , and every statue is a study in itself…

Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. …(Up on) the roof…springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance…We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street…

They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands.

Duomo - Interior
Duomo – Interior

The construction of the Duomo di Milano began in 1386 promoted by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan, and continued for centuries.

The Duomo di Milano is entirely covered from its base with pinkish-white marble. In the façade, five large portals are inserted carrying high-reliefs illustrating sacred and historical scenes such as “The life of Sant’Ambrogio.” Full slabs of marble make up the roof of the Duomo which can be reached by a steep external staircase, consisting of 919 steps, carved between the left side and the transept.

From the Duomo roof - Photo © Javier
From the Duomo roof – Photo © Javier

The effort of “climbing” the Duomo is highly rewarded by the magnificent view of the surrounding plain up to the Alps; should the weather be ungenerous it will still be possible to enjoy the vision of the “Madonnina” , the golden statue of the Virgin Mary, the 135 lace-like spires and the many statues which decorate the roof.

On entering the majestic interior of the cross-shaped cathedral of the Duomo di Milano, the sight is captured by the polychrome stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of the saints. The eight naves of the Duomo Cathedral are divided by 52 gigantic pillars topped by a series of niches with statues.

Interesting is the web site of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, the official site of the institution that oversees the Duomo di Milano.

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