Milan Cathedral

Milan, Italy

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) is the third largest church in the world and it took nearly six centuries to complete.


Saint Ambrose built a new basilica on this site at the beginning of the 5th century, with an adjoining basilica added in 836. When fire damaged both buildings in 1075, they were rebuilt as the Duomo.

In 1386, Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began construction of the cathedral. In 1389, a French chief engineer, Nicolas de Bonaventure, was appointed, adding to the church its Rayonnant Gothic, a French style not typical for Italy. He decided that the brick structure should be panelled with marble. Work proceeded quickly and in 1402 almost half the cathedral was complete. Construction, however, stalled almost totally until 1480, for lack of money and ideas.

In 1500 to 1510, under Ludovico Sforza, the octagonal cupola was completed, and decorated in the interior with four series of 15 statues each, portraying saints, prophets, sibyls and other Figures from the Bible. The exterior long remained without any decoration, except for the Guglietto dell'Amadeo ('Amadeo's Little Spire'), constructed 1507-1510. This is a Renaissance masterwork which nevertheless harmonized well with the general Gothic appearance of the church.

After the accession of Carlo Borromeo to the archbishop's throne, all lay monuments were removed from the Duomo. In 1575-1585 the presbytery was rebuilt, while new altars and the baptistry were added. The wooden choir stalls were constructed by 1614 for the main altar by Francesco Brambilla. In 1577 Borromeo finally consecrated the whole edifice as a new church.

At the beginning of the 17th century Federico Borromeo had the foundations of the new façade laid by Francesco Maria Richini and Fabio Mangone. Work continued until 1638 with the construction of five portals and two middle windows. In 1649, however, the new chief architect Carlo Buzzi introduced a striking revolution: the façade was to revert to original Gothic style, including the already finished details within big Gothic pilasters and two giant belfries. In 1762 one of the main features of the cathedral, the Madonnina's spire, was erected at the dizzying height of 108.5 m.

In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte, about to be crowned King of Italy, ordered the façade to be finished by Pellicani. Within only seven years, the Cathedral's façade was completed. In the following years, most of the missing arches and spires were constructed. The statues on the southern wall were also finished, while in 1829-1858, new stained glass windows replaced the old ones, though with less aesthetically significant results. The last details of the cathedral were finished only in the 20th century: the last gate was inaugurated on January 6, 1965.

Architecture and art

The plan consists of a nave with four side-aisles, crossed by a transept and then followed by choir and apse. The roof is open to tourists (for a fee), which allows many a close-up view of some spectacular sculpture that would otherwise be unappreciated. The roof of the cathedral is renowned for the forest of openwork pinnacles and spires, set upon delicate flying buttresses.

The interior of the cathedral includes numerous monuments and artworks. At the left of the altar is located the most famous statue of all the Cathedral, the Saint Bartholomew Flayed (1562), by Marco d'Agrate, the saint shows his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a stole. There are also several sarcophagus of bishops and three magnificent altars by Pellegrino Pellegrini, which include the notable Federico Zuccari's Visit of St. Peter to St. Agatha jailed.



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Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Italy
See all sites in Milan


Founded: 1386
Category: Religious sites in Italy


4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Colin Wilkins (2 years ago)
An experience once in a lifetime to see the Duomo in Milan. 600 years to build doesn't come close to imaging how they accomplished this masterpiece. Every where you turn there is a statue or fresco that mesmerizes and demands you stand still to appreciate the awe and beauty. There is a rooftop walk you can take as well but need to book a different tour. When you leave and think back on what you have just witnessed your life has to change in some perspective
Raneem Sh (2 years ago)
This church is breathtaking, from the inside and the outside. The climb to the top is worth it, the view is magnificent and the architecture is breathtaking. The inside has so much going on and it's absolutely incredible. The lines however are massive and you need to get there early to get a regular ticket instead of a fast pass. Once you have a ticket you can line up to see everything. A tip we got which proved to be useful is that you should like up to see the tower first and then take the stairs down into the cathedral since that line up is shorter and faster.
Dana Nechita (2 years ago)
Impressive landmark. Should definitely be on anyone's bucket list. Starts to get busy around 8.45-9 in the morning so if you're an early bird you can go earlier and have it all for yourself. Add a coffee from 12! And you've got yourself a perfect morning in Milan. P.S. Beware of the pushing hustlers trying to sell everything from bird food and pictures to bracelets for 5€.
Piotrek Kyc (2 years ago)
One of the places you should see in Italy. Cathedral is big and beautiful even from outside. Inside is amazing you almost can feel those old times. I haven't been on the top because of enormous queue. Square in front of cathedral is very big and great to take pictures.
王文龙 (2 years ago)
This gothic church is unique all over the world. Both inside and outside are fantastic. If you come to the square in the front of that church when the weather is good, you will the church is shining! The church is covered by status made of white marble. Once you see it, then you can never remove it from your memory. This is a legendary architecture. The inner part of the church is worth to visit as well. There are some relics in the church. You are allowed to visit them totally free. The color glasses on the window is also one of the most famous things here. For the three biggest windows in the end of the church, every glass stands for a story. That is really amazing!
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