The majestic Duomo Cathedral, which translates as the cathedral, is the main attraction of Milan and the pride of Italians, located in the city center on Cathedral Square.The full name of the cathedral, made in the style of flaming Gothic, is Santa Maria Nachente (Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary). Both Catholics and parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Church pray here.
Origin and construction
From time immemorial, religious ceremonies have been performed on the site of the Milan Cathedral. It once housed a Celtic temple, the Church of Santa Tecla and the Basilica of the Virgin.
The foundations of the Milan Cathedral were laid in 1386 by order of the Duke Giangaleazzo Visconi, the eminent ruler of Milan, who sought to unite the Italian state.
Difficulties in erecting a building
The Duke of Visconi ordered to build a cathedral in a fashionable Gothic style , unusual for Italy. The ruler of Milan involved architects from France and Germany in the construction of the building designed by the Italian architect Simone de Arsenigo.
The Duomo was built slowly: the rulers, replacing each other, constantly made their own amendments, because the cathedral personified the greatness of the power of the next duke. It happened that the new owner ordered to remake the buildings of the predecessor.
Interesting! For 600 years – the time of the creation of the Duomo – numerous changes have been made to the design of the cathedral.
The Duomo’s style is “Flaming Gothic”, so named because the smallest details of architecture and decoration create the effect of flames. Ornate elements, numerous whimsical ornaments and elongated pediments are the personification of the Gothic style of the cathedral.
Completion of construction
In 1805, the king of Italy, Napoleon Bonaparte, a native of the Italian-Corsican family, was crowned in the unfinished church. The cathedral was completed mainly in 1813 by architects Carlo Amati and Giuseppe Zanoya.
To decorate the building, 180 Italian masters were involved: sculptors, architects, artists. Officially, the construction of the cathedral, which can simultaneously accommodate 40,000 people, was completed in 1965.
The Duomo is 158 m long, 92 m wide, 157 m high, and the facade is decorated with sculptures. The highest spire is directed upward at 108.5 m. White marble with a pinkish tint from the Kandolya quarry was used to decorate the building.
The white marble façade is eclectic with elements of Roman church architecture and Baroque, dominated by the Gothic style. The main entrance is marked with a bronze gate. The beauty of the building captivates visitors: the facade is finished with a special kind of marble that changes color depending on the time of day.
Ten columns 20 m high, created from a granite monolith, are directed upwards together with 135 pointed spiers-needles. The grandiose structure – “stone forest” with bizarre turrets and carved decorations looks like weightless lace.
The facades and spiers are decorated with many graceful sculptures, slender columns and turrets. 2,300 statues of unequal size and 700 figures set in high marble reliefs express the idea of Christian salvation. It depicts prophets and patriarchs, martyrs and saints, as well as cherubs, gargoons and chimeras: the symbols of the temple were formed for six centuries, which left an architectural imprint on the building.
The main sculpture of the Duomo Cathedral is a spire with a four-meter statue of the Madonna , which appeared in 1769. At the same time, the authorities issued a decree prohibiting the construction of buildings above the spire with the Madonna.
A gilded bronze statue of the patroness of the city weighing 399 kg. is crowned with the highest spire of the Duomo. The figure of the Madonna is faced with sheets of pure gold weighing 6.75 kilograms. On the tips of the stone needles are doves and boxers, mythical monsters designed to drive away evil spirits. The Alpine Mountains are visible from the height of the spiers.
The roof of the Duomo, equipped as a terrace, is accessed by lift or stairs. Along the perimeter there are statues of angels and chimeras, biblical characters and saints, made so gracefully that one wants to stand and admire the real art.
The interior of the Milan Cathedral seems immense, inside there are eight naves, decorated with marble, silver and gold, precious stones. The central nave is larger than the neighboring ones.
The interior of the Duomo features a columnar forest, completed with high original capitals. 52 monumental columns soaring upward extend to the vaulted Gothic ceiling. The high vaults are decorated with fine stucco molding and amazing painting.
Stained glass and altar
Milan’s Duomo Cathedral is decorated with 45 stained glass panels depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments, the Apocalypse and the Life of Jesus Christ. The huge windows are in the form of elongated stained-glass windows, created in the 15th century. The stained glass windows above the small chapel of the Cross are dedicated to the deeds of Saint Helena.
On the sides of the main aisle there are niches in which altars, tombstones and sarcophagi are located. The main altar is made of marble and bronze, behind the altar there is a canopy in the form of a temple, which rests on 12 columns symbolizing the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.
On a note! On one of the walls of the cathedral there is a huge stone table with an engraved list of the names and surnames of all the archbishops of Milan.
Directly above the altar, under the dome at a height of 45 meters, there is a small red light: a nail from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in a crystal capsule with silver edges. The sacred nail was brought from the Holy Land by Equal-to-the-Apostles Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great,
Once a year – September 14 – on the Day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Bishop of Milan ascends to the tabernacle with a nail on a platform in the form of a cloud with an Angel. The relic is solemnly lowered down and installed on the central throne of the cathedral.
Interesting! The lifting mechanism was invented and painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The ceremony is accompanied by organ sounds and broadcast on monitors installed in the temple.
Statue of Saint Bartholomew
To the right of the altar is a stone image of St. Bartholomew. One of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, the patron saint of fishermen, died a martyr’s death.
At the instigation of the pagan priests, the skin was removed from him during torture. The sculpture depicts a martyr, on whose body every muscle is visible. He, like a cape, covers himself with his own skin.
Inside the Catholic Cathedral of the Duomo, the dead were often buried – influential persons of their time. Here is the mausoleum of the Marquis Jonomo from the Medici family. Under the mausoleum is the crypt of Charles Borromeo, archbishop canonized.
He became famous for ridding the city of the plague epidemic. The Archbishop of Milan, at the risk of infection, looked after the sick, fed the needy townspeople at his own expense.
Carlo Borromeo ordered to take out the sacred relic from the temple and led the penitential procession with the Holy Nail so that the terrible disease would recede. Italian painters captured scenes from the life of the archbishop in a series of 54 canvases and placed them in the crypt.
Other interior elements
- There is a sundial in the southern part of the main nave. A ray of the sun passes through them and is reflected on the dial with the zodiacal signs. The cathedral is decorated with a huge organ with 180 registers and 13,200 pipes.
- Wooden crucifix from 1576, which was used during the invasion of the plague.
- A bronze five-meter candlestick, a seven-century candelabrum of the 12th century, rests on four dragons. The bronze leg of the candlestick is decorated with allegorical figures and biblical characters.
- Egyptian bath of the 4th century, which became a baptismal font.