Duomo Cathedral is certainly the most famous monument in Milan, but are you really sure that you know it well? Here are 5 things that will you make to see it in a new light.


The Gothic Style

Milan Duomo Spires Gothic Style italy church art culture statues

Credits to diquaedila.it

The Duomo of Milan is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Europe.
But there is something you may not know: to capture the true Gothic style of the Duomo you should not look at the facade, but the apse!
The first stone of the Duomo was erected in 1386 in the apse: the works started from there and the facade was built only after more than two centuries, in the early 1600s!

The Statue of Napoleon

St. Napoleon Duomo Milan statue spire cathedral art sculpture

Credits to duomomilano.it

There are so many statues that adorn the Duomo, but one of them has a very special story. It is on the side overlooking the Palazzo Reale, on the third buttress from the main façade, and represents a boy with his arms folded, in a pose with a note od defiance, and chained feet: it is Saint Napoleon.

Clearly, it is an imaginary saint, invented on purpose to please Bonaparte at the time when he  governed Milan.

The legend tells us that the saint did not exist and that, to please the Emperor, Cardinal Caprara tracked down a strange young man of the fourth century, Neapolis, for assonance connected with Napoleon. Even the story of the saint was built from scratch, through analogies with other lives of Saints: Neapolis was said to have been tortured and then killed in captivity. If you wish to learn more about Milan’s cathedral join our segway tour.



Get Your Spire

spire duomo Milan italy cathedral church statues sculpture art sunset

Credits to duomomilano.it

As the Official Website says,

From October 2012, the Veneranda Fabbrica launched a new fund raising campaign Get Your Spire to sustain the most urgent structural work regarding 18 working sites including the Great Spires, 4 major spires, 129 minor spires, the falconature, re-design of the covering spans of the Duomo, and the restoration of the indoor spaces.

In order to complete all the restoration work in progress, this project needs to collect 13,5 million euros… And they have already collected 6 millions, whose 10% resulting from the public appeal! Sounds great, isn’t it?



The Marble of Duomo

marble duomo Milan navigli history church

Credits to duomomilano.it

Today as before, the marble that serves the works of the Duomo comes from Candoglia on Lake Maggiore: it is an exclusive marble, donated by the Visconti Family to the venerable Duomo Factory on 24 October 1387.

The marble was transported to the city through the waterways, quickly and without great effort thanks to the natural thrust of the stream that from Lake Maggiore through Ticino leads directly to Naviglio Grande.

This was the genius of the Milanese (with the help of Leonardo da Vinci)! From Naviglio, through the inner circle of the canals, the blocks of marble were unloaded into the small port just behind the Duomo. Easy-peasy!




What was there before the Cathedral?

milan Celtic roman era origin map

Credits to Urbanfile

In 500 BC on the area of the square there was probably a sacred wood, which was the religious and political center during the Celtic domination.

During the Roman era a temple was erected in this area, dedicated to Minerva, and there converged the network of roads of the City.

In the 4th century AD the Basilica Nuova was built, later named Basilica of Santa Tecla, and in the 9th century AD the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was added.



To complete the Milan’s Cathedral, it took 600 years, although, as Milanese people use to saying, when they finish to build the Duomo, the world will end: luckily hundreds of statues need constant attention and restoration!