Souvenirs from Milan, Italy
Situated in the splendid center of Milan, the Duomo di Milano (or the Milan Cathedral) is the biggest cathedral in Italy and the fourth largest in the world. Its controversy and fame revolves around the long process of its construction which took over six centuries to complete. Currently the building is used as the seat of the Archbishop of Milan. The Cathedral has been long criticized for its inconsistent or confusing mixture of styles: from Gothic and neo-Gothic details to Baroque and Neo-Classical decorations, the building is a large scale display of the different styles which marked European art history. Visitors can now keep a resin fridge magnet as an elegant souvenir from one of Italy’s iconic landmarks.
Six Hundred Years under Construction
The construction works started in 1386 in an old Roman church location and the initial project was ambitiously aiming at building a Gothic masterpiece of unprecedented dimensions and beauty. One of the oldest Christian baptistry, the Saint Ambrose's 'New Basilica', was built on the same site as the Milan Cathedral but it was destroyed during a fire. Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo ordered the construction of the building and three structures had to be demolished to make room for his plan while the church of Maria Maggiore was used primarily as a stone source. Because of its scale, lack of funds and numerous design amendments, the Cathedral was not completed until 1802 when Napoleon pressured the last finishing of its facade prior to his coronation as King of Italy.
Milan Cathedral and the Challenge of Grand Designs
Contested over the years because of its confusing combination of styles, the Milan Cathedral houses splendid works of art and several tombs of Milan’s Archbishops and it is still used today as a main venue for religious ceremonies. Supervising the construction under the strict schedule of ‘Fabbrica del Duomo’ and using more than 300 workers in its early stages, its first designers were inspired by French architecture and the Lombard Gothic style. At the beginning of the 19th century, the last arches, statues, stained glass windows and spires of the Cathedral were added to complete the work but the monument was officially finished in the 20th century when its last gate was opened in 1965. The most famous statue inside the Cathedral is the magnificent 16th century carving representing San Bartolomeo which rests close to the three Pellegrini’s altars featuring Federico Zuccari's Visit of Saint Peter to Saint Agatha Jailed.
Duomo di Milano in Popular Culture
The unofficial symbolic song of Milan is the interwar O mia bela Madunina by Giovanni d'Anzi written about the Madonna statue displayed inside the Milan Cathedral. Inspired by the extremely long process of its construction, the Italian dialect of Milan created a new phrase Fabrica del Dom to suggest a long, almost impossible to finish task. Moreover, the Italian expression mangiare a ufo, meaning ‘being paid for a job yet to be done’ dates back to the early period in the Dome’s construction when the tax free building materials wore the inscription A.U.F., short for Ad Usum Fabricae (‘to be used for the construction’ in Latin). There are still some unfinished blocks of stone today and even the main renovation works for the monument took several years to complete and were finally over in 2009 when the freshly cleaned façade was presented. One of the Dome’s unique features is the roof climb: visitors are allowed to walk on its roof and admire some of the Cathedral’s sculptures or the breathtaking sight of Milan’s old center.