On a truly grand scale


Sometimes a single photograph simply doesn’t convey the sheer scale and drama of a building. Last month I was staying in Milan and took the opportunity to visit the magnificent Italian Gothic cathedral – the Duomo di Milano. It is the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the third largest in Europe with only St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Seville Cathedral being bigger.

Even when you walk across the Piazza del Duomo through the tourist crowds it doesn’t ‘feel’ huge as unlike many other medieval cathedrals it is broad rather than tall. Then, the closer you get the magnificent marble façade looms and looms above you. The scale is best appreciated when a few humans stand in front of the mighty west doors – mille grazie soldati!

The church is dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity and was begun in 1386 and took over six centuries to finish. It is constructed from grey and pink-veined Candoglian marble that was ferried down a system of waterways from the Lake Maggiore quarries. From a distance it looks like an intricately iced cake, but up close you can truly appreciate the many marble statues and the fine ornate decoration.

There are 3,400 statues, 135 spires including 700 figures and 96 large gargoyles adorning the church. Looking up at the spires you might assume they were simply decorated with architectural, sculpted foliage, but in fact they are spires with multiple niches each holding a statue and finally each pinnacle is topped by another statue.


Interestingly, such a vast and lengthy undertaking as building and embellishing a magnificent cathedral resulted in a collaboration between local Lombardy sculptors and workers from further afield including French and German sculptors.

And inside. . . The interior can accommodate 40,000 people in the 12,000 square metres – I think the guide below was just checking to see where they all were on this very, cold morning.



About agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.
This entry was posted in Art History, Interesting buildings, Sculpture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to On a truly grand scale

  1. The cathedral is truly amazing. I had been there years ago and the place too my breath away. All those spiky “cones”, they look particularly magical.😍

  2. vever02 says:

    It is very beautiful the cathedral of Milan,
    Very well sculpted, your photos are beautiful.

  3. Didn’t you go up on the roof to have your photo taken in the same pose as the madonna? That’s what everyone did when I was there!

    • agnesashe says:

      Sadly, I didn’t take the lift to the roof as it was bitterly cold and my father, in his eighties, was already frozen to the bone after touring the inside which was as cold as outside!

  4. margaret21 says:

    It’s many years since I’ve visited. Thanks for this souvenir reminder of this most spectacular building.

    • agnesashe says:

      I could have done with a wide angle lens to do it justice, but wouldn’t have got some of the upper details. I don’t like carrying around loads of stuff and these days everywhere you go security check you out. Some of the soldiers pictured were scanning everybody before they went in. They were rather serious and the phone in my coat pocket set their wand pinging. I took it out, waved it at them with a smile, but they weren’t amused.

  5. I had a chuckle at the last photograph. Such acclamations to the glory of God are simply breath-taking. It really puts the Bendigo cathedral in its place, doesn’t it?

  6. agnesashe says:

    Yes, there’s no false modesty here. More is definitely more! Not entirely sure who they think can look up and see all the ornamentation, but maybe it’s not for us mortals.

  7. An amazing structure – maybe the guide was missing the crowds were because those soldiers look so menacing…sign of the times I guess.

    • agnesashe says:

      Yes, menacing is spot on. You know I visited Milan back in 1990 and there was no ‘security’ at all. I have just dug out a couple of photos (to check my memory) and there were far, far less tourists in the Piazza del Duomo too. Also a sign of the times.

  8. taphian says:

    Wonderful photos and interesting information

  9. Denis1950 says:

    Fascinating images Agnes, the cathedral and the soldiers!

    • agnesashe says:

      The soldiers were rather ill-tempered. I don’t think that carrying out security checks on an endless line of tourists is what they imagined they’d be doing as soldiers

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