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.

History

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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Address

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

Details

Founded: 1386
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Agnieszka Rybczyńska (3 months ago)
I've been to many churches, basilicas and cathedrals, but the Milan Cathedral is my favourite. A spectacular, huge monument. I was on the roof and I recommend climbing there. The interior shows all the glory of this cathedral. Amazing place.
Shantanu Singha (4 months ago)
Huge cathedral with intricate designs all around. Magnificent. It looks majestic from every corner and you can see the effort which has gone into building the cathedral. We went there almost everyday we were in Milan. Book the ticket in advance including terrace if you’d like.
Luke Han (4 months ago)
Very scenic and picturesque everywhere. I went there three times and the best views were early in the morning when it was just me and someone else. Pictures look so much better early in the morning when no one is around. As a group, we did a tour. Great views from the rooftop and while inside.
Michał Kiełczyński (4 months ago)
Wow... The cathedral in Milan makes an amazing impression on me. It looks majestic from the outside. It's a really big piece of history. To go inside and to the roofs of the cathedral, from which is a beautiful view of the city, I recommend to buy a ticket in advance online for about €17, and coming early in the morning because there are not crowds of tourists yet.
Laszlo Elekes (6 months ago)
Visiting Milan Duomo with my family, including two kids, was an overall okay experience, but a few aspects left us with mixed feelings. The cathedral itself is a breathtaking masterpiece, with its intricate architecture and stunning design. Our kids were fascinated by the grandeur of the exterior and the history behind this iconic landmark. However, our enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the extensive security measures at the entrance. While safety is undoubtedly important, the level of scrutiny felt exaggerated, making the entry process a bit tedious, especially with children in tow. One major downside during our visit was the ongoing renovation work. It impacted the overall ambiance and obstructed some of the views, diminishing the full splendor of this historical site. Additionally, the cost of going up in the tower with the elevator was a bit steep (17 EUR / person if I remember correctly). We opted to skip the tower ascent due to the high cost, which was disappointing considering it's one of the main attractions. On a positive note, the interior of the cathedral was awe-inspiring, and exploring the surrounding square was a delightful experience. The vibrant atmosphere and surrounding shops and cafes added to the charm of the visit. In conclusion, Milan Duomo is undoubtedly a must-visit, but potential visitors should be aware of the renovation work and be prepared for the associated challenges. The security measures could be more streamlined, and the pricing for additional experiences like the tower ascent may need reconsideration, particularly for families with children.
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