“What a miracle! This great, this solemn, this is huge! And yet so delicate, so airy and graceful!” Mark TWAIN
Extremely huge white marble Cathedral in the main square of Milan is one of the most famous buildings in Europe. It is the largest Gothic Cathedral and the fourth largest Catholic Cathedral in the world, after the cathedrals of our lady of Peace in ivory coast. St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. Among the Gothic buildings in terms of capacity, it is second only to the Seville Cathedral in Spain. One only of statues in the Cathedral there are more than three thousand. Beauty of the Milan Cathedral is often compared to the Sagrada Familia. but the Milanese say their Cathedral is much older and more beautiful.
Myths and facts
Milan Cathedral was under construction forever. On the spot where once stood the sanctuary of Celtic, then Roman temple of Minerva, at the beginning of the V century Saint Ambrose constructed the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. When a fire in 1075 year damaged the building, it was restored as a Cathedral.
In 1386 the Duke of Milan Gian Galeazzo Visconti began construction of a new Grand temple. According to the legend, the Visconti could not wait for the birth of an heir – he had five daughters and no sons. Viscontini the virgin Mary to send him an heir, and vowed to build in her honor the magnificent Church in the world (full name Milan Cathedral Santa Maria Nascente, which means “Nativity of the virgin Mary”, although in Italy it is called simply Duomo di Milano).
Complex facade of the new building in late Gothic style was more characteristic of France (Notre Dame Cathedral ), than Italy. The work continued for generations. Central 104-meter spire with a four-meter statue of the Madonna of gilded bronze was only installed in 1762. In the same year a decree was passed that no building in Milan should not obscure the Holy patroness of the city (the exception was the skyscraper “Pirelli” on the roof, which put an exact copy of the statue).
The main part of the Cathedral was completed in 1880. But even now they remain some of the blocks of the facade, which has yet to turn into a sculpture.
What to see
The Milan Cathedral is 157 meters long and can accommodate 40,000 people. Huge brick building faced with white marble from the quarries which Visconti was donated to the Church in perpetuity.
The roof dissolves into openwork pinnacles that are surrounded by “forest” of spires, topped with statues. They can be seen up close in a thrilling walk on the roof. Go up the stairs (the entrance is on the North side of the building), or Elevator (entrance from the side of the apse).
The aisles have five wide openings. Even the transepts have aisles. The large Windows of the choir, as expected, are the largest in the world.
The Central door is decorated with reliefs of birds, fruits and animals, intricately carved from the marble that they seem living beings. Figures so many and so complex that they can study for a week without losing interest.
The main attractions inside the temple include the crypt and the Treasury. The crypt is next to the choir and many visitors descend the short stairway to visit the tomb of cardinal Borromeo. Next is the Treasury, where a collection of medieval art.
Above the altar are kept the main Shrine of the Cathedral – a nail from Christ’s cross, which, according to legend, was found by Saint Ambrose. In September the nail put on public display for two days.
Milan Cathedral is open daily from 7.00 to 19.00.
Cost: visit the Cathedral for free. Climb to the roof of the Elevator is 8 €, in steps of 5 €. Visiting the crypt is 1.5 €. The audio guide is 4 €. Combined ticket for 13 €.
How to get there: the metro stop Duomo.
It is forbidden to enter with food, drinks and big bags. You should follow conservatio clothes and not to make any noise.