The first answer to the question “What is there to see in Milan?” which occurs is “Of course, Duomo di Milano !”
The main dominant of the city and ultimately beautiful edifice – Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary, Duomo di Milano. As a matter of fact, the word “duomo” means “cathedral” in Italian.
Santa Maria Nascente, which is the official name of the cathedral, is dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos, the birth of Mary.
A gilded copper statue of St. Mary embellishes the central 106 meters (348 feet) high spire of the cathedral. The statue was erected in 1796, the same year the law that no building could ever be higher than the statue of Madonna was issued. But the time of massive skyscrapers of glass and steel presents its amendments, and the first building “to break the law” was Pirelli Tower. Nevertheless, yet again Madonna had been elevated to the height unreachable for the city as the precise copy of the Duomo statue was placed atop the Pirelli tower.
The cathedral is situated in the central part of the city, which is also its historical center. Piazza del Duomo had been the religious center of the city since the obscure Medieval times. And before the white stone carved temple appeared here, it had been graced with two basilicas, which were subjected to countless damages due to most different historical circumstances. In the 14th century Archbishop of Milan Antonio de’ Saluzzi decided to demolish all the old buildings and to build a new cathedral. Thus, at the end of the 14th century began the construction of the lace colossus of stone, which we are to enjoy today. Construction history of this building is as monumental as the building itself. Because it spans for centuries, the last stroke of it having been officially painted on the brink of the 20th century.
The pink and white marble from the Candoglia quarry in Piedmont was used. The cathedral’s construction had an enormous support among people and was strategically important for the state. Like this, the quarries, which provided building materials, were fully exempted of taxes, and everyone, who participated in construction, had privileges paying them. The channels of Navigli district (read about our Navigli walks) were vastly used for transporting marble slabs to the construction site.
As the process went on for decades and ages, the face of it changed from century to century: its architectural appearance has the elements of decor inherent to different styles. But usually Milan Cathedral is regarded flamboyant (from French flamboyant, “flaming”) Gothic architecture with characteristic ogival windows and flame-like ornaments.
But leaving the historical and architectural side of our narrative to the more competent sources, we’re going to look at this marvel with eyes of a tourist ☺
It’s fairly difficult to catch a time of day, when there aren’t loads of tourists near Duomo. A big square in front of it is always abundant with people and also with doves, which you might like feed.
We got to the Piazza in the morning, it was already quite crowded. The queue to the cashiers didn’t instill optimistic mood. But we weren’t in a hurry to get inside or to climb to the roof. We were trying to get used to the situation, surrounding us – people galore, different languages, never-ceasing movement and unperturbed beauty of the cathedral itself.
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Nonetheless, we’ve decided to ascend to the cathedral’s roof and walk along its open terraces. One can achieve the top using the elevator or walking the narrow stone stairs. We chose the latter, obviously. It cost 8€ for an adult and 4€ for a child to the age of 12. All the entrances are seriously guarded – you are to be checked with scanners and to open a bag if carrying one. You’ll be asked politely and seriously.
There are about 150 stairs there. And we’re atop. The words are needless – only to watch and to not breathe, because of excitement!
Stone laces interweave and dash along the roof with symmetrical arcades. And the luxuriously decorated spires yearn for the skies, bearing statues of saints. Somewhere beneath, the city whirrs and fusses restlessly …
On the highest terrace we rest our legs, sunbathe, lying on the cold marble roof, beholding the blue Milanese sky! You want to not move and stop the moment. All what is happening seems unreal..
After the eyes get accustomed to all this fantastic stunning beauty, comes the time to explore the details. As the peculiar stone ornaments so densely grown on the cathedral’s roof begin to unravel: there’s a figure of a newborn baby, there’s an Edenic bird, and over there are the fruit and the flower, or the intimidating gargoyle’s snout…
“… the silent speech of the carved stone, accessible as it immediately was to the gaze and the imagination of anyone (for images are the literature of the layman), dazzled my eyes and plunged me into a vision that even today my tongue can hardly describe.” – Umberto Eco “The Name of the Rose”.
Here, the characters from the dark medieval times books come to life, the thoughts of immeasurable might of the Church overwhelm – about all the marvels and all the horrors, which walked hand by hand with religion as it evolved. Now it’s almost time to introduce yourself as Esméralda – everything around just cries for it (although, yes, the story never took place in Milan, but in Paris; but still, the characters persistently bob up to the surface)…
Let’s continue fashion capital of Italy. Common weekdays of italians in our post WEEKDAY IN MILAN