30 March 2016

Duomo of Milan

Duomo di Milano has long been the symbol of the city. If “brand Milano” is 400 billion euros then the duomo must account for 82 bilion euros.

Its history dates back to the 14th century when, after the old bell tower of the ancient basilica collapsed, the archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo wanted a bigger cathedral. The lord of the city, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, took control of the project and wanted to give the city a magnificent cathedral to rival those of other important gothic cathedrals in Europe. For this reason the cathedral follows gothic influences from north and central Europe so it is different from other Italian churches. The cathedral even though it was finished as late as 1932, has a strong 15th century imprint. During the 15th century there were many architects, sculptors and craftsmen who came from northern Europe and worked on the dome’s construction.

It was Gian Galeazzo Visconti who decided to replace brick with Candoglia Marble. The marble caves located in the Val d’Ossola were owned by the Visconti family and was transported to the building site using waterways. The dome has a latin cross shaped plan: the main body has 5 aisles and the transept  three aisles. What really makes the dome unmistakable is its pointy profile due to its many spires of which there are 135, the main one being the Madonnina.

Almost all the spires are decorated with statues (there are around 3400 in total). The biggest part of stained glass window, dating at the 15th century, was damaged and replaced during the 19th century. During the 19th century the façade was completed following a neogothic project but this was later modified in 1932.

The venerable Duomo factory is the vestry board of the Cathedral of Milan, and was established in 1387, by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, to design, build and preserve the Milanese cathedral.

Today it is an autonomous body that still manages the cathedral and it is involved with preservation and restoration with various initiatives for enhancement.

The dome museum was inaugurated in 1953 and it owns around 200 pieces: statues, tapestries, graphics materials, paintings, wooden models and glass walls. In 1965 it was recognised as one of the top 40 largest private museums in Italy.