Eating pasta and gelato might actually be the number one thing to do in Milan! Oh no, wait… shopping should be the first!? Or maybe it should be strolling through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele I or admiring the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci? It’s really hard to tell, what’s the number one thing to do in a city like Milan which has so much to offer, but for sure visiting the Duomo should be very high on your priority list!
This picture was taken after a summer storm which emptied the piazza in seconds! A nice change considering there were more selfie stick sellers than pigeons that summer!
The Duomo is a huge Cathedral, the 3rd biggest in the word or maybe the fifth, it depends how you count. It’s architecture is unlike any others because it was constructed over the course of 7 centuries. It started at the end of the 14th century but was only considered fully finished in the 20th century, as the last details were added. The inauguration of the last gate took place in 1965.
Over such a long period, style evolved as inspiration changed, with the change of architects. The Cathedral is now a mix of Roman style, Lombard Gothic style, rayonnant Gothic, a French style not typically found in Italy, romanesque style sculptures…. A melting pot of the most grandiose styles which miraculously work together.
Architecture Spotlight on…
The Duomo floor plan
The Duomo is shaped after the classical latin shape with some big differences: The nave has 4 aisles when it is more usual to have only 2, one on each side and the transept also has aisles. (mini guide available here!)
The Ribbed Vaults
Early Gothic buildings commonly display ribbed vaulting made of stone for the support of the weight of a wooden ceiling. What’s quite impressive in the Duomo is that the roof of the Cathedral is in marble! Much heavier than wood obviously. As you can see on the picture below, the ribbed vaults in the Duomo are particularly beautiful in the Nave’s aisles.
The Duomo Capitals
What you will also notice on the above picture, is how richly decorated the capitals, above the nave & the trancept pillars, are. A lot of them have a first row of statues representing Saints and above them a second raw of statues representing Prophets.
Note: I told you in my post about the Reims Cathedral that it holds the World record of numbers of statues. Well, this record might actually be held by the Duomo. Not sure anymore!!
The Altar of Saint Giovanni Bono
a view on some of the stained glass
The Milan Cathedral also host many art pieces.
The Saint Bartholomew Flayed by Marco d’agnate (1562) is probably the most famous statue of the Cathedral. Yes it is his skin that is thrown over his shoulders like a stole!
Guess who it inspired?! Leonardo Di Vinci of course…
Before leaving, don’t miss the access to the archeology crypte. It is quite interesting to see the remains of the former roman building and all the brick work.
The next thing to do: get on the roof!
Once you have visited the inside, it is absolutely mandatory 😉 that you go on the rooftop of the Cathedral to admire the view!!
You will get to walk amongst the incredibles pinnacles and spires set upon the delicate flying buttresses.
Once you reach the facade, you will need to climb a few more stairs to reach the terrace which is basically the roof above the nave.
It is so big that some giant sculptures are displayed there!
And of course, you will get to admire the view on the city and the piazza…
I loved the inside of the Cathedral, because you know I’m a fan of Gothic architecture, but I must admit that going on the roof was an incredible experience. Being to see from so close, what you can usually barely distinguish from the ground, was a real treat!
The Technical Bits:
The official Duomo site: www.duomomilano.it/en/
The visit can be done at your own pace but there are also guided tours like the one that explores the enigmas and secrets of the Cathedral. Could be worth checking out!
It’s probably worth mentioning that there is a lift to go up on the Cathedral terraces. 😉 Don’t nod your head like this. It was a scorching hot day when we visited last summer so, yes, we took the lift!!
I wish I had visited the Cathedral’s library, it’s the oldest library in Milan and has thousands of books and manuscripts, including some from the 16th century. Don’t miss it, it’s located in the Canon’s Palace.
So, tell me: What’s your number one thing to do in Milan?