Cities of Italy

Milan Cathedral: history, interesting facts and how to visit

The majestic cathedral, towering on the main square - one of the most visited tourist sites in Milan, has long been a distinctive hallmark of the city. The construction of this grandiose architectural structure was begun in 1386 and lasted almost six centuries, and some details were completed only by 1965.

Like many temples, the Cathedral of Milan, or, as it is also called, the Duomo Cathedral, was laid on the site of an old ruined church. Initially, there was a Celtic sanctuary, then the Temple of Minerva, the Church of Santa Tecla and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

History of Milan Cathedral

The creator of the project was Italian Simone de Orsenigo, but the Gothic experts from Germany and France invited the first Gothic cathedral in Europe to build.

The main architects of the cathedral endlessly succeeded each other, until in 1470, Juniforte Solari took over this post, inviting Leonardo and Bramante as consultants. A frequent change of architects led to a mixture of styles - the Gothic style was partially diluted by the Renaissance.

The construction of the Cathedral of Milan was started in 1386

A three-nave building with two burnt brick chapels was originally planned, but plans soon changed, thanks to which today the heart of Milan is decorated with a huge cathedral with many columns and spiers made of white Cantolian marble. To transport heavy marble slabs, special canals were arranged leading from the quarry to the center of Milan.

Due to lack of funds, construction was stopped several times, then resumed again. The main altar of the then unfinished temple was consecrated in 1417, however, it was opened to parishioners only in 1572.

The height of the spire with the statue of the Virgin Mary is 105 meters

The modernization of the cathedral continued until the 20th century: at the beginning of the 14th century the dome was finally decorated, an organ was installed by the middle of the century, the first spire decorated with a gilded statue of the Virgin was installed in 1769, and an openwork facade was built in 1813.

BlogoItaliano wrote in more detail about the history of the construction of the Cathedral in an article by the Duomo in Milan: what the walls won't tell.

Interesting Facts

Milan Cathedral is the fifth largest in the world and fourth in Europe. In terms of capacity, the Duomo is second only to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and Seville Cathedral in Spain, if all the benches are taken out of it, 40 thousand people can be accommodated inside.

From a great height, the cathedral building looks like a Catholic cross with a vertical length of 158 meters and a horizontal line 92 meters long.

The cathedral is decorated with 135 spiers, directed to the sky, the highest - a spire with a statue of the Virgin Mary, its height is 105 meters.

In the interior, on the facades and spiers of the Cathedral of Milan, there are 3,400 statues - these are images of saints, martyrs and prophets, and famous historical figures, and Gothic characters - chimeras and gargoyles. One of the walls is decorated with a sculpture that has become the prototype of the American Statue of Liberty.

The main shrine of the Cathedral is the nail with which Christ was crucified

The main shrine of the cathedral is the nail with which Christ was crucified. Every year on the Day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), the Archbishop of Milan takes out a nail from his place under the dome to demonstrate a relic to the parishioners.

Inside the cathedral, frescoes of the 15th century, paintings by Italian masters of the 16th-17th centuries devoted to religious subjects, fragments of ancient buildings that existed on this site before the Duomo were preserved.

The cathedral has a sundial installed at the end of the 18th century. They are a metal strip stretching across the floor of the cathedral from the entrance through the entire room. This watch does not just indicate the onset of noon, thanks to errors in their testimony in the 20th century, it was found that the foundation of the building began to sag over time.

The facades of the Cathedral are decorated with images of saints, martyrs and prophets.

On the roof there are observation platforms, visitors of which have the opportunity not only to admire the beautiful views of Milan, but also to appreciate the grace of the spiers and the sculptures decorating them.

In May 1805, the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, who ascended the throne of Italy, took place in the Cathedral of Milan. In commemoration of this event, one of the spiers was decorated with a statue of the emperor.

Today, the cathedral is the center of not only the religious, but also the cultural life of the fashionable capital - concerts of both sacred and ordinary secular music are often organized here.

Tickets and opening hours

The cathedral is open to visitors daily, except January 1, May 1 and Christmas Day from 8 am to 7 pm, the last tourists are admitted no later than 50 minutes before closing time.

Since 2015, a visit to the Cathedral has become paid. The budget ticket costs 3 Euros and you can also see the church of San Gottardo and the Cathedral Museum on it. For children from 6 to 12 years old, the visit is cheaper - 2 Euros, and for kids under 6 years old - for free.

In addition to regular tickets, there is also the possibility of visiting, which includes the Duomo Archaeological Zone, but tickets for this option cost more - 7 Euros.

The Cathedral is adorned with 135 spiers directed to the sky

Many travelers who come to Milan want to go up to the famous terrace of the Cathedral to view the city center from a bird's eye view. There is a separate fee for this, and the price of tickets depends on which way you want to go upstairs - by stairs or by elevator.

Prices for adults - 9 (steps) and 13 Euros (by elevator). For children from 6 to 12 years old - 4.5 and 7 Euros, respectively. Kids up to 6 years old - free.

Finally, those who are not ready to waste time in several lines at once and want to see everything at once, can purchase Duomo Pass. It allows you to see the Cathedral, San Gottardo, the Duomo Museum and the terrace with the option of elevator access. To clarify the details and the current cost of Duomo Pass, please visit this page.

Recall that the cathedral is not just an architectural and historical monument, but a religious shrine, therefore, the appearance and behavior of tourists during the tour should be decent.

How to get there

Milan Cathedral is located in the heart of the city on the Duomo. You can get to it by metro, driving along the first or third line to the Duomo station.

You can also pick up a hotel in the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral. Moreover, most of the key attractions of Milan are located here. The best selection of hotels near the Duomo can be found on this page.

Useful articles:

  • All airports of Milan
  • Metro Milan: map, tickets, opening hours
  • Best Milan city center hotels
  • Excursions in Milan in Russian: 5 most popular

Photos by: Matteo Trotta, Bjørn Giesenbauer, Lorenzoclick, Curtis Poe, juan carlos peaguda, likeaduck.

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