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

Roshan Robert Fernandes (8 months ago)
Your visit to Milano cannot be considered complete without a visit to this very special very magnificent building + Beautiful Sculpted statues all over the building, both inside and outside. They tower over the city watching us + Mass celebration was taking place when we visited. The music, the singing of the choir and the smell of incense made it a very special experience. + Exquisite, stunning stain glass windows especially the front face of the building. + The rooftop provides great views of Milan, that Plaza as well as the higher edges of the building. + Lots of cafes, restaurants and shopping around. + Visit the museum to get a closer look at some of the sculptures. There is a huge number of exhibits. Book online to beat the lines. Elevator costs 5 euro more but has longer lines and wait times. On the other hand stairs are narrow in width and some may find it claustrophobic which is exacerbated by the breathlessness of climbing. Stairs are reasonably well ventilated with small vents at regular intervals. Stairs ceiling is comfortably high enough even for tall people. - They made us thrash our unopened coke can.
Maya Leis (9 months ago)
This was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I came on a rainy day in December. Tickets were online and cost 16 regular 8 reduced. While this is a little steep, you can really spend 1-2 hours here. It is a lot of stairs but can be done in only a few minutes, and if you’re able-bodied it shouldn’t be an issue. Once at the viewing platform, the views are CRAZY! Super beautiful on every side and it is so cool to be walking along the outside of the roof of the church. Surreal. Another set of stairs takes you to the actual roof where the views are even better. Incredibly beautiful and historical architecture. Coming down the stairs you enter the Cathedral itself which is adorned with sculptures, painting, and more beautiful architecture. We came on a Sunday so we were able to observe a mass as well. This was an absolutely wonderful experience. It’s famous for a reason, don’t miss it!
David Hong (12 months ago)
Definitely a must see. Get the rooftop ticket access and book the earlier ones. I bought the full access and it was well worth it for me. I read that going to the rooftop by foot might be faster than waiting in line for the lift access. As of Sept 2023, part of the roof was closed off due to cleaning/restoration. But the views and experience was nonetheless amazing.
Naveed Syed (14 months ago)
Enjoyed a quick visit to this iconic attraction. Really loved the ability to venture in the rooftop which was surprising and awesome (despite the ongoing restoration work). Views from the top are fantastic. The inside is grand too. Staff were helpful and polite. Although it could benefit from better signage. Access inside to some areas restricted ?
Kai Klann (15 months ago)
What must amazed me was being walking on the top of the roof, which is not common. The Duomo is big, the architecture of the outside is very impressive and beautiful. The church inside, based on the other churches I have seen before, this one didn’t impressive. As any other European church, of course is beautiful and it’s big, I have seen better ones. But, I think you should go because every perspective is always different and it’s worth it. I took the lift (elevator) to go to the top. This entrance is on the right side of the back of the church. Opposite side where you can buy the tickets. IMPORTANT: for women you tummy needs to be cover and your shoulders. I had a tide dress and it wasn’t a problem. My husband had shorts and a t-shirt and he was fine go inside. The elevator doesn’t go down, it’s only to go up. We took the stairs to come down.
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