"What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful!"
With these words, Mark Twain captured the essence of the Duomo di Milano. This elegant and enormous Gothic Cathedral ranks high in the "Must See When in Europe" list. It is, in fact, one of Italy's landmarks. It also has the distinction of being one of the word's largest Roman Catholic cathedrals. It is second only to the Cathedral of Seville. It boasts of a capacity of 40,000 and is built on 12,000 square meters of land. The conception of the Duomo is attributed to Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti.
It sits right in the center of Milan's main square and is a wonder to behold. Its central location alone indicates its importance. The streets circle or radiate from the Duomo. Built at the start of the 5th century, it took over five centuries to finish. It began with the building of Saint Ambrose's "New Basilica". Later in 836, another basilica was built adjacent to the existing one. However, a fire in 1075 razed the two buildings and thus the two were rebuilt as the Duomo.
The word "grandiose" comes into mind when we talk about the Duomo. Its brick exteriors are covered with white Candoglia marble. The cathedral features 135 marble spires with the main spire soaring to 109 meters above the ground and has the golden Madonninna perched on it. The Madonninna is a gold-leaf covered statue that stands at four meters in height. The roofline leading up to this and the other pinnacles are adorned with some 3,500 statues and gargoyles, plus flying buttresses and Gothic pinnacles. What's more, you can take a closer look at these detailed ornaments by climbing the rooftop. You will also be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city. It has five wide naves, with marvelous stained glass windows.
Its interiors, though a bit gloomy for some, is still magnificent by any standard, as it houses priceless religious relics and artworks. Perhaps the most famous of this is the gruesome statue depicting the martyrdom (by flaying!) of San Bartolomeo. This is the work of Marco D'Agrate. There is also the crypt that houses the remains of Gian Giacomo Medici and San Carlo Borromeo, vestments and tapestries (particularly those that have been donated by princes and noblemen), ivory pieces and gold and silver vases. It also boasts of the Holy Nail, which was given by St. Helena to Constantine. This nail is said to come from the very cross where Jesus was crucified. There is also an 18th century sundial close to the entrance.
There are also three altars created by Pellegrino Pellegrini plus the Medeghino, which is a monument to Gian Giacomo Medici di Marignano.
The Duomo is open everyday starting from 7:00 in the morning up until 6:45 in the afternoon. We suggest that you come early for the mass. That way, you avoid the crowds and you can even be able to spend a little time in prayer and meditation.
Visit the Duomo. It is one of the most enduring and endearing monuments to artistry and magnificence in Italy.