Interesting facts about Milan Cathedral

milan cathedral

Milan Cathedral or Duomo di Milano is the cathedral church of Milan, Italy.

Dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan.

It is the second largest church in Italy after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the third largest catholic church  in the world.

The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.


In 1386, Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began construction of the Duomo.

During the construction period of nearly six centuries, numerous architects worked at the Duomo.

In 1567, work began on the facade in classical baroque style. During the long construction period, a variety of styles and shapes have been incorporated into the construction. In 1805 the work on the facade was completed.

milan cathedral facade

The main spire was topped in 1762 with a polychrome statue of the Madonna, to whom the Duomo and its predecessor have always been dedicated.

The construction of the towers on the roof continued until the 19th Century.

The last details of the cathedral were finished in the 20th century: the last gate was inaugurated on January 6, 1965.

The material used in the construction of the Milan Cathedral is Brick with Candoglia marble.

The Milan Cathedral is decorated with an amazing number of beautifully sculpted statues and spires.

milan cathedral statues

There are more statues on this building than any other in the world, 3159 in total. 2245 of these are on the exterior together with 96 gargoyles and 135 spires. It is said that if the statues were placed on top of each other, they would reach a height of about 5,300 meters (3.3 miles).

milan cathedral spires

The highest point of the dome occupies the Madonnina (Little Madonna), the 4.16 meters (13.6 feet) large golden statue at 108.5 meters (356 feet) height shines afar in the sun.

milan cathedral madonnina

The statuary decorations enhancing the capitals, vaults, marble ornaments, facade, large windows and the 135 spires and pinnacles, provide an image of Paradise: patriarchs and prophets, martyrs and saints indicate our eternal destiny as people redeemed by the sacrifice of the Cross, guided towards heaven by the Virgin Mary.

The cathedral is 158.5 meters (520 feet) long, 92 meters (302 feet) wide.

Access to the cathedral is made through five large bronze doors from Piazza Duomo. The central one [pic. below] is the oldest and was created in the nineteenth century by Ludovico Pogliaghi.

milan cathedral door

The cathedral has a cruciform plan in the form of a Latin cross that covers nearly 12,000 square meters. 40,000 people can fit comfortably within.

Its construction was up five naves, a central and two lateral on each side, resting on 40 columns of 24.50 meters (80 feet) each.

milan cathedral interior

The height of the nave is about 45 meters (147 feet), the highest Gothic vaults of a complete church (less than the 48 meters (157 feet) of Beauvais Cathedral, which was never completed).

Nicolò di Bonaventura took on the apse of the Cathedral, which deserves special attention because of its three large windows with stained glass, which are considered the highest in the world.

milan cathedral apse

The interior of the cathedral includes numerous monuments and artworks.

The most famous statue of all the Cathedral, the Saint Bartholomew Flayed (1562), by Marco d’Agrate, the saint shows his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a stole.

san bartolomeo flayed

There are three magnificent altars [one of them on pic. below] designed by Pellegrino Pellegrini , all of which include some excellent art such as the renowned Visit of St. Peter to St. Agatha Jailed by Federico Zuccari.

milan cathedral altar

The transepts house the Trivulzio Candelabrum, which is in two pieces. The base (attributed to Nicolas of Verdun, 12th century), characterized by a fantastic ensemble of vines, vegetables and imaginary animals; and the stem, of the mid-16th century.

milan cathedral interior decoration

A small red light bulb in the dome above the apse marks the spot where one of the nails reputedly from the Crucifixion of Christ has been placed. The Holy Nail is retrieved and exposed to the public every year, during a celebration known as the Rite of the Nivola.


After exploring the inside, visitors can pay a small fee to take a fascinating trip to the Duomo’s roof via
steps or elevator. It’s amazing to walk among the forest of spires and the view from the roof is unmatched. On a clear day you can see as far as the Alps and Apennines.

milan cathedral roof

The cathedral was under major renovations and cleaning for several years, obscuring the west front with scaffolding. Works were finally completed in 2009, revealing the newly-cleaned facade in all its glory.

In 2015, Milan’s cathedral developed a new lighting system based on LED lights.

Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley read literature inside the Duomo.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson enjoyed the view of the Alps from the Duomo.

The American writer and journalist Mark Twain visited Milan in the summer of 1867. He dedicated chapter 18 of Innocents Abroad to the Milan Cathedral, including many physical and historical details, and a now uncommon visit to the roof.