Milan Cathedral. Church in Milan, Italy

Milan Cathedral

Church in Milan, Italy

Auld Lang Syne 2014 - Duomo di Milano Photo © Justin Kern

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Milan Cathedral

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Milano#07: Il Duomo...visita xpress - Milan Cathedral. Photo by Selector Marx
Milan Cathedral, a church dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, is a genuine Gothic masterpiece with more than 3,000 beautifully sculpted statues and 135 spires, each mounted with a statue depicting important people in Milan’s history and different characters in the bible.

The Duomo di Milano, with its dazzling white front façade, dominates the Piazza del Duomo - the main square of Milan. The cathedral is 157 meters long and 40,000 people can fit comfortably within.

It took nearly 600 years to finish, but it was worth the wait. Because its construction continued over hundreds of years, the cathedral embodies many different styles and influences. The façade is Baroque up to the first order of windows, and neo-Gothic above.

Inside, the huge cathedral boasts five broad naves, and massive choir windows. It has five bronze doors that provide access to the Duomo, one carved with realistic plants, birds, animals, and insects. Marble statues are placed in every conceivable spot. The best time to visit is in bright sunshine, when the interior is illuminated by the colorful mosaic of its stained glass windows.

The most attractive statute among all is the Madonnina (Wikipedia Article), a copper statute of the Virgin Mary, symbol of the city and protector of the Milanese, covered with 3,900 pieces of gold leaf. Across the square, in the Palazzo Reale, is the Museo del Duomo that displays the treasures from the cathedral.

Duomo di Milano - Milan
Duomo di Milano - Milan Cathedral. Photo by Franco Folini


Duomo Milano - Milan
Duomo Milano - Milan Cathedral. Photo by Lorenzoclick
The construction of Milan Cathedral began in 1386, on the order of Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo. In the 16th and 17th century, many of the internal decorations were added, such as the baptistery, the main altar, and wooden choir stalls.

The rushed completion of the construction occurred in the 19th century, ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte himself. In 1805, the front works were all finished while the construction of the statues continued through the 19th century. In 1943, after the damages suffered during the World War II, the Duomo was restored to a large extent and the wooden doors were replaced with others of bronze. The last details of Milan Cathedral were finished in the 20th century.

The last gate was inaugurated in 1960 and it represents the last element that ends centuries of additions, renovations, and constructions. Today, Milan has passed a law stating that no new constructions can be higher than the revered statue.

What to See

Just inside the entrance is a staircase down to the remains of the baptistery, where you can see what is left of the earlier church.

South Transept - Milan
South Transept - Milan Cathedral. Photo by Dmitry Shakin
The stained glass windows in the church are exquisitely beautiful. Behind the main altar of the church are three large walls of many panels of stained glass windows, one dedicated to the Old Testament, one to the New Testament, and the last to the story of the Book of Revelation.

In the right transept you'll find a funerary monument to Gian Giacomo Medici (Wikipedia Article), long attributed to Michelangelo but now recognized as the work of sculptor and collector, Leone Leoni (Wikipedia Article).

Opposite the Medici tomb, there are the 12th century candelabra by the goldsmith, Nicholas of Verdun, widely believed to be the greatest masterpiece of the cathedral.

A must-see is St. Bartholomew statue. It stands in front of the Medici Family Mausoleum and shows the Saint carrying his own skin over his shoulder, a result of flaying during his martyrdom.

There are three magnificent altars by Pellegrino Pellegrini, which include the notable Federico Zuccari’s Visit of St. Peter to St. Agatha's jail.

The Treasury of the Duomo is accessible via a staircase near the southern sacristy, and includes some valuable objects related to the life and construction of the cathedral.

Roof of the Duomo di
	Milano - Milan Cathedral
Roof of the Duomo di Milano - Milan Cathedral. Photo by David Davies
One of the highlights of a visit to the cathedral is the view from the roof. The lift is the easiest way to get there, but the stairs have more charm. The climb upstairs passes between the towers and offers the superb views along the way. You can wander through the church's rooftop forest of marble statues and spires, or you can simply enjoy the breathtaking view of the city.

The “Madonnina”, a beautiful 4-meter statue, graces the top of the Duomo’s highest pinnacle, soaring 108 meters above ground.


Milan Cathedral is open daily from 6.50 AM - 7.00 PM. However, both the baptistery and the museum are opened for shortened hours from Tuesday through Sunday. The Duomo is free to visit, but there are small fees for touring the roof, crypt, baptistery, and museum. And don't forget to dress appropriately; cover your shoulders and legs above the knee.

Getting There

The Duomo is located at the center of Milan in pedestrianized Piazza del Duomo, and at a walking distance from many other tourist attractions. The Metro station named Duomo (Metro lines 1 and 3) is right in front of the cathedral.

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Author: Ayda. Last updated: May 27, 2015

Pictures of Milan Cathedral

Duomo - Milan - Milan Cathedral
Duomo - Milan - Milan Cathedral. Photo by Lorenzoclick

Duomo di Milano - Milan Cathedral
Duomo di Milano - Milan Cathedral. Photo by Efe Arat


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