The amazing Milan Cathedral

I am little bit dissapointed about Milan. I thought that I’ll get crazy about its attractions but I’m not. Apart from one. Duomo di Milano – the Milan Cathedral (or Duomo di Milano), dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent. I could spend a whole day watching precisely every detail of it. It’s really worth attention!

milan cathedral

When I stand on del Piazza di Duomo and the first time see the cathedral I am astonished with its shape. With no bell towers it looks more like a basilica than a church but it attracts attention with details on the facade. I come closer and now I see that these shapes are bas-reliefs and sculptures. There are so many of them that they merge in one for my eyes! Is there any kind of guide that describes all of them? How can I know what I am looking at?

milan cathedral

It’s raining heavily and I can’t spend as much time as I would like to looking at the facade so I go inside the Cathedral.

Now I should mention that I love medieval churches. I don’t know why. Those buildings have something special. So huge and dark, they seem to be really mysterious. Wherever I visit any church – and I just like to sit and admire – I wonder how it is possible that several hundred years ago a hand of a man built it without any special machines that we use nowadays. For me sacred architecture is a form of art.

It’s chilly and dark inside but not as quiet as I expected. Well, undoubtedly it is a touristy place. This is what I hate. Cathedrals and churches are no more places where you can contemplate in silence. People do phone calls, talk at loud, I won’t be surprised if one day I see someone with popcorn like in the cinema. But when I am in any cathedral or church I behave respectfully. I accord respect to history, architecture but also to the House of God, even if I’m not a deep believer.

milan cathedral

Unfortunately, Europe forgot about its biggest treasure – culture. Now it is more a playground, but I think this is just the sign of our times. That aside, I still love and admire this continent.

I sit in a pew and listen to an organ concert. I’m really lucky to hear it. In any other place organ sounds as mighty and thrilling as here, among the cold marble walls. I close my eyes and listen closely to every tune. When I open my eyes and look around I see only few people who marvel at the artistry of Duomo. It seems to be so light and graceful despite its size.

But also I can see some tourist from Eastern Asia with cameras. Ok, everybody has the right to sightseeing. But I do mind a teenage couple who kneel and imitate that they are praying for a sweet photo… And their faces are like ‘Hey, look, I’m praying like a Christian!’ Could I ever be so disrespectful for any other religion and pretend to pray in any temple in the world, when I don’t understand what all those gestures mean? Could I pretend to pray in a mosque or other shrine just for fun or to have a nice (and fake) souvenir? I don’t think so. I respect other cultures, religions and nations.

I take a walk around the Cathedral. It is impressive not only from the outside but also on the inside. When I stand under enormous columns that buttress the vault and have all that greatness above my head, I feel so tiny and insignificant.

Duomo di Milano is the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world but because it was built over several centuries, it contains also elements of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism. It is 157 m long and 92 m wide and – though it is hard to believe – it has a capacity of 40,000 people! Also the stained-glass windows here rank among the biggest that have been ever constructed. Most of them present Bible scenes and were installed during 19th century. Duomo is an architectonical masterpiece. And I stand here, in the midst of it and wherever I look I notice another sculpture. It’s not hard – bear in mind that the whole building is an ensemble of 3 400 statues.

milan cathedral

Suddenly I notice him. Tall man standing in a ray of light. He is naked with a stole thrown over his body. There is something eerie in his appearance so I come closer. And now I understand-he is not naked. It’s martyr, San Bartolomeo Flayed, and the stole is not a stole but his skin… Details of muscles and tendons are so deeply moving that I look at the statue for a while. The whole drama is depicted very well in this picture.

milan cathedral

I look around again and see a huge candelabra. I cannot approach it, becuase there is a fence and some works in this transept but from here I can see how big it is.

I think it is common that there are some renovations here. The whole cathedral was being constructed over 600 years. The year 1965, when the last gate was inaugurated, is considered the very end of a process. It is said that people of Milan get used to continual works by the Cathedral, that after finishing it there was an idea to pull the whole building down and start the construction once again… It seems that permanent works are the natural thing for the temple.

milan cathedral

When the rain stops I go to the roof. Before I left home, my mum had told me to go there because the view is astounding. So I climb the stairs (7 euros, the lift is 10 euros) excited and when I reach the top I’m sure that this is what I was waiting for. I like views from the top, wherever I am I look for a view point. But, frankly saying, Milan’s roofs seen in that way are nothing special. Though, there is one thing that made my day. When sky gets clear, I can see ridge of the Alps! They’re so far away and seems so little from here, but the whole picture with pink sky, dark clouds and the mountains is so nice that I don’t regret that I didn’t like Milano so much. The Cathedral is enough for me to be happy here.

milan cathedral

What else makes the roof so special? Details of course! You stroll under flying butresses, enjoying all those statues, gargoyles, spires and pinnacles. Sculptures are about 3m high but from the Piazza del Duomo they look like matches! And there is also the biggest statue of Madonnina in the middle of the roof. I don’t like it much because it’s covered with gold and I prefer natural materials like stone and wood so I’m just crazy about all those statues here! But I wish I knew what am I looking at. Are all those figures present a real person or is it just a vision of the artist? Some of them show saints and martyrs. I recognize one or two by their attributes. Again, my curiosity is not satisfied.

milan cathedral

There should be a kind of a booklet where the most important or interesting details would be described. For such a inquisitive person like me it would be really usefull. What I have found in a book guide was not sufficient for me.

milan cathedral

Duomo di Milano is a must-see. You can of course visit other places in Milano but trust me-nothing will make on you such good impression. What is more, if you visit Duomo, any other Gothic church will take your breath away. Other cathedrals may be beautiful and astounding but the Cathedral in Milan is uncomparable. It’s just the only one of it’s kind.

milan cathedral

4 comments

    • I liked it, especially Brera district, La Scala and as I have written – Duomo. Maybe I just expected too much and that’s why I feel a little bit dissapointed but I like it. Somehow I have fondness for it 🙂

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