The Milan Cathedral: A Gothic Wonder

Exploring the Magnificent Milan Cathedral: A Guide to Italy's Iconic Landmark!

The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of Christmastime of Saint Mary, frequently popular as Milan Cathedral, is the cathedral church of Milan, Lombardy, Italy. It considers the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, immediately Archbishop Mario Delpini, and is loyal to Christmastime of St. Mary (Santa Maria Nascente).

The cathedral took nearly six centuries to build: the building began in 1386 and was finished in 1965. It is the biggest church in the Italian Republic (the bigger St. Peter’s Basilica is located in the sovereign state of Vatican City) and one of the largest in the world.

History of Milan Cathedral

The arrangement of Milan, with streets radiating from or surrounding the Duomo, demonstrates that the Duomo occupies what was the most central position in Roman Mediolanum, that of all churches an architectural finish to the meeting. By 355, the first cathedral, the “new basilica” (basilica nova) dedicated to St Thecla, had been built.

It appears to be based on the layout of the contemporary church recently excavated beneath Tower Hill in London but in a little smaller size. In 836, an adjoining basilica was built. The Battistero Paleocristiano, an octagonal baptistery dating from 335, may still be visited beneath the cathedral. When the cathedral and basilica were destroyed by fire in 1075, they were rebuilt as the Duomo.

History of Milan Cathedral
History of Milan Cathedral

Construction begins

Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began work on the church in 1386. The building began in time for the archbishop’s cousin Gian Galeazzo Visconti’s ascent to power in Milan and was intended as compensation for the nobility and working people who had suffered under his tyrant Visconti predecessor Barnaby.

The construction of the cathedral was also influenced by very specific political decisions: with the new construction site, the people of Milan intended to emphasize Milan’s importance in the eyes of Gian Galeazzo, an outstanding ness raised doubt for one new master’s conclusion to dwell and assert welcome court, like welcome father Galeazzo II, in Pavia alternatively Milan.

Three major structures were destroyed before the start of construction: the hall of the Archbishop, the Ordinary Palace, and the Baptistry of St. Stephen in the Spring, while the traditional religion of Sta. Maria Maggiore was used as a grain goal.

Enthusiasm for the huge new construction speedily contaminate the culture, and the clever Gian Galeazzo, in addition to welcome relative the priest, composed big gifts for the whole-in-progress. The explanation program was rigidly controlled under the “Fabbrica del Duomo”, which had 300 clerks managed by first chief engineer Simone da Orsenigo. Orsenigo originally projected to build the sanctuary from blocks in Lombard Gothic style.

Milan Cathedral
Milan Cathedral


All secular monuments were removed from the Duomo upon Carlo Borromeo’s ascent to the archbishop’s throne. The tombs of Giovanni and Filippo Maria Visconti, Francesco I and welcome bride Bianca, and Galeazzo Maria were among those moved to unknown locations.

Borromeo’s biggest involvement, however, was the nomination of Pellegrino Pellegrini as a head engineer in 1571, which was a difficult decision since appointing Pellegrino, the one was not a lay relative of the duomo, necessary a revision of the Fabbrica’s societies.

Borromeo and Pellegrini aimed for a fresh Renaissance aspect for the cathedral, emphasizing its Roman / Italian heritage while subduing the Gothic style, which was now considered foreign.

As the façade still was chiefly wanting, Pellegrini planned a “Roman” style individual, accompanying processions, obelisks, and a big inside ear. When Pellegrini’s design was disclosed, a contest for the design of the façade was released, and this brought out almost twelve efforts, containing individual by Antonio Barca.

This design was never completed activity, but the room decoration resumed: in 1575-1585 the church part was remodeled, while new altars and the baptistry were additional. The inflexible collection stalls were assembled by 1614 for the main pedestal by Francesco Brambilla. In 1577 Borromeo permanently blessed all structures as a new religion, despite everything the traditional Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Tecla.

Milan Cathedral, Italy
Milan Cathedral, Italy

17th century

Federico Borromeo had the bases of the new façade drained by Francesco Maria Richini and Fabio Mangone at first of the 17th centennial. Construction of five gateways and two center windows lasted until 1638. However, in 1649, the new chief architect Carlo Buzzi instituted a dramatic change: the façade was to be restored to its original Gothic style, including the already completed details within large Gothic pilasters and two massive belfries.

Other designs were submitted, including those by Filippo Juvarra (1733) and Luigi Vanvitelli (1745), but none were used. In 1682, Santa Maria Maggiore’s façade was torn down, and the cathedral’s roof was finished.

The Madonnina’s spire, one of the cathedral’s principal attractions, was built in 1762 at a staggering height of 108.5 m. Carlo Pellicani constructed the spire, which has a famous polychrome Madonnina statue created by Giuseppe Perego and befits the cathedral’s size. Given Milan’s generally wet and foggy atmosphere, the Milanese consider it a good day when the Madonnina can be seen from a distance, as it is frequently obscured by mist.

Milan Cathedral in Italy
Milan Cathedral in Italy


Napoleon Bonaparte, who was about to be proclaimed King of Italy, ordered Pellicani to build the façade on May 20, 1805. In his zeal, he informed Fabbrica that all expenditures would be borne by the French treasury, which would compensate Fabbrica for the real estate that had to be sold.

Even though this compensation was never compensated, it meant that the cathedral’s façade was completed in only seven years. Pellicani mostly replicated Buzzi’s design, adding neo-Gothic elements to the top windows. As a gesture of gratitude, a statue of Napoleon was erected on one of the spires. At the Duomo, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy.

The majority of the missing arches and spires were built in the years that followed.

The sculptures on the southern wall were also completed, and new stained-glass windows replaced the previous ones between 1829 and 1858, but with less artistically significant consequences. The cathedral’s final elements were completed only in the twentieth century, with the last gateway opened on January 6, 1965.

This date is considered the end of a process that had been going on for centuries, however, some uncarved blocks remain to be finished as sculptures. Allied bombardment of Milan during WWII further slowed building. The Duomo, like many other cathedrals in towns attacked by Allied troops, received some damage, but to a lower extent than other prominent buildings in the area, such as the La Scala Theatre.

View of Milan Cathedral in Italy
View of Milan Cathedral in Italy

About Architecture and Art in Milan Cathedral

A nave with four side aisles is spanned by a transept, which is followed by a choir and an apse. The nave is nearly 45 meters tall, with the tallest Gothic vaults of any church.

The roof is exposed to tourists, allowing them to get a close-up glimpse of some stunning sculptures that might otherwise go unnoticed. The chancel’s ceiling is legendary for its allure jungle of mesh pinnacles and spires attack sensitive winged buttresses.

The façade’s hierarchic apertures represent the cathedral’s five large naves, which are split by 40 pillars. There are aisles in the transepts as well. The nave columns stand 24.5 meters tall, and the apsidal windows measure 20.7 by 8.5 meters.

The mammoth construction is of block explanation, met accompanying of or like marble from the quarries that Gian Galeazzo Visconti presented everlasting to the basilica stage. Its perpetuation and repairs are very difficult. In 2015, Milan’s temple grew a new ignition structure and established LED lights.

View of Milan Cathedral in night
View of Milan Cathedral in night

Aesthetic judgments

The cathedral was constructed over several centuries in a variety of styles. Its reception has varied from praise to disdain. According to the Guida d’Italia: Milano 1998, the early Romantics praised it during “the first ardent enthusiasms for Gothic.” As the Gothic Revival introduced a purer taste, condemnation was often just as harsh.

The cathedral, according to John Ruskin, takes “from every style in the world: and every style ruined.” The cathedral is a hybrid of Perpendicular and Flamboyant styles, with the latter being particularly barbaric and angular as a result of being engrafted not on a pure, but on a very early penetrative Gothic…

The rest of the building around this unusual Flamboyant is Perpendicular with horizontal bars across it: and foul, with the most repulsive crocketing. Not a single ray of the invention… Finally, all of the statues are of the worst possible common stonemasons’ yard species and appear to be pinned on for show.

The sole redeeming feature of the entire structure is the frequent use of the pointed gable… which adds lightness, and the cramming of the spiry pinnacles towards the sky.” The plastered ceiling, painted to seem like ornate tracery carved in stone, enraged him as a “gross degradation.”

Milan Cathedral View
Milan Cathedral View

Main monuments and sights

The cathedral’s interior has several monuments and artworks. These are some examples:

    • The most renowned statue in the cathedral, Saint Bartholomew, is positioned to the left of the altar. Flayed, by Marco d’Agrate, depicts the saint wearing his flayed skin as a shawl over his shoulders.
    • The sarcophagus of Archbishop Alberto da Intimiano is overseen by a Crucifix in copper laminae.
    • A Campionese craftsman built the sarcophagi of archbishops Ottone Visconti and Giovanni Visconti in the 14th century.
    • The sarcophagus of Marco Carelli, who provided 35,000 ducati to help speed up the cathedral’s construction.
    • Pellegrino Pellegrini’s three splendid altars feature the famed Zuccari’s Federico Visit of St. Peter to St. Agatha imprisoned.
    • In the right transept, Leone Leoni’s “Medeghino” monument to Gian Giacomo Medici di Marignano and the adjacent Renaissance marble altar with gilt bronze statues.
    • The presbytery is a late Renaissance masterwork that includes a choir, a Temple by Pellegrini, two pulpits with copper and bronze atlantes, and two enormous organs. The two sacristies’ doors, several paintings, and a fifteenth-century figure of Martin V by Jacopino da Tradate may be found around the choir.
    • The Trivulzio Candelabrum, which is in two sections, is housed in the transepts. The stem, from the mid-16th century, is distinguished by a spectacular ensemble of vines, vegetables, and fanciful creatures.
    • In the abandoned path, Alessi’s Arcimboldi memorial and Romanesque figures describing the Apostles’ deficit alabaster, in addition to Pellegrini’s neo-Classic baptistry.
    • A little red light bulb in the dome above the apse symbolizes the location of one of the nails purportedly from Christ’s Crucifixion. Every year, during the Rite of the Nivola, the Holy Nail is extracted and displayed to the public.
    • In November and December, during the days surrounding Saint Charles Borromeo’s birthdate, a series of large canvases known as the Quadroni are displayed along the nave.
    • Since September 2005, a video installation by English artist Mark Wallinger has been displayed in the cathedral’s crypt, next to Saint Charles Borromeo’s relics. It’s called Via Dolorosa, and it’s an 18-minute video that recreates moments from the Passion from Franco Zeffirelli’s film Jesus of Nazareth.
    • Tony Cragg created a white marble sculpture inspired by the Madonna statue on the rooftop in November 2014.
    • The 5-manual, 225-rank pipe organ, built on Mussolini’s orders by the Italian organ-building firms Tamburini and Mascioni, is now the biggest in Italy.

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