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Italy: Milan Cathedral

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Milan Cathedral | Italy | Europe

[Visited: June 2012 and several times before]

Perseverance: a word that could apply to the masterpiece of Milan, its gothic, marble cathedral. Originally the spot where a basilica was built in the 5th century, and as such the central spot of the city ever since, construction of the current church was started in 1386 by Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo. While half of the cathedral had been finished within 20 years, it would take many more centuries of work, periods of inactivity because of various reasons - it was used since the early 16th century, and consacrated in 1577. It would be Napoleon Bonaparte, before being crowned king of Italy in the cathedral, who ordered the facade of the building to be finished in 1805 - it earned him a statue on top of one of the spires. Additions and changes were still made in the 20th century; the last gate of the Duomo was inaugurated only in 1965. The extended period inevitably also means that the to the Gothic origins are added other, for instance Renaissance and neo-Gothic, elements.

Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): View from the roof: statues on spires at the top of Milan Cathedral

After those hundreds of years of construction works, the heavily polluted exterior of the cathedral had to be removed in the 2000s; for years, the symbol of Milan was covered in scaffolding. But on this sunny summer day, when I entered the Piazza del Duomo, it was back in all its glory, its Candoglia marble shining in the afternoon sun, its spires pointing to the sky, and only some scaffolding remained around the highest spire, on which I could see the Madonnina contrasting with the blue sky behind, a gilded bronze statue of the Virgin Mary that is an indication for the Milanese for their weather; at over 100 metres above the ground, it is often covered in the fog that often envelopes the city. There were many people around, inevitably, and in my mind, I traveled back to that very early summer morning more than ten year before, when I saw the sun rise behind the Duomo, making its unmistakeable contours emerge from the silhouette it had been before.

Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Vittorio Emmanuele on a horse with the cathedral of Milan at sunrise

Now, however, the sun was shining on my back as I approached the massive doors, and once again, I noticed how the square in front of it, together with the gradual increase of height on both sides of the facade, combine to make the building appear smaller than it actually is: this is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. The doors are covered in bronze bas-reliefs, depicting religious scenes, as well as historic ones of the city of Milan as well as the construction of the cathedral itself. After passing through security, I entered the cathedral, and now, its size became more apparent. Contrasting with its shiny exterior, it is quite dark inside, light mostly coming in through one of the massive stained glass windows. After taking in the interior, it was time to walk to the top: some 250 steps take you all the way to the top, where you have a chance to see all those spires, pinnacles, and statues, with decorated flying buttresses from up close. Still a little higher, you can actually walk on the roof itself, look down on the square and appreciate the skyline of the city, and, of course, the Madonnina. Back down on the square, the sun was starting to set and cast a warmer light on the elaborately adorned facade.

Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Decorated flying buttresses supporting the roof of Milan Cathedral
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Spires and status silhouetted against the afternoon sun on the roof of Milan Cathedral
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Sculptured door on the west side of the Duomo of Milan
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Looking up the facade of Milan Cathedral, or Duomo
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): The main spire of the cathedral, with a gilded bronze Madonnina on top
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Head of angel sticking out of the wall of the cathedral of Milan
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Religious figures on cross at the top of the cathedral of Milan
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): One of the many sculptures on the outer wall of the cathedral
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Stained glass with a colourful religious scene inside the cathedral
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Spires on the flying buttresses near the roof of the cathedral
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): The facade of the cathedral in the afternoon sun
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Detail of flower sculpted on the cathedral of Milan
Picture of Milan Cathedral (Italy): Close-up of one of the massive doors of the cathedral with Emperor August

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