Duomo di Milano

Milan, Italy | C.1386

Photo Credit: Jackie L Chan


The Duomo di Milano is a massive and awe-inspiring work of art. Dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity (Santa Maria Nascente), it is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, the largest church in Italy and the third largest church in the world. The cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete, from 1386-1965.

In 1386, Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began construction of the cathedral, which coincided with the ascension to power of his cousin, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan. The church was meant as a reward to the noble and working classes, who had suffered under his tyrannical predecessor.

To this end, Visconti established a craftsmen’s guild called the Fabbrica del Duomo, which was in charge of building the church. The project immediately attracted builders, artisans, and craftsmen from across Europe.

Hampered by changes in government, changing architectural styles, and ambitious plans, construction of the cathedral spanned centuries. However, the Fabbrica del Duomo maintained their devotion to the International Gothic exterior, characterized by height and dramatic ornamentation. The guild still exists today and is active in maintaining the building.

There are over 3,400 statues around this structure, and thousands of individual spires. The tallest spire is 107.9 meters (354 ft) tall, and supports a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary known as la Madonnina, built in 1774.

According to tradition, la Madonnina must always be the highest human-made object in Milan. In fact, when a modern building surpassed the height of the Duomo in the early 2000s, a replica of la Madonnina was made and placed atop that structure to ensure the tradition lived on.

Written By: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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