Milan Cathedral, Milano, Italija

Everyday, from 8.00 am to 7.00 pm

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Milan Cathedral

The Duomo, besides being an artistic monument, is a privileged place of prayer. The Milan Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese in which the daily liturgical prayer is experienced in the multiplicity of its forms.

History of the Milan Cathedral

The Duomo, besides being an artistic monument, is a privileged place of prayer. The Milan Cathedral is strongly linked to memory and to the Magisterium of the Bishops who have succeeded to the Throne of St. Ambrose and to the history of the millions of faithful who collect their thoughts there each year to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries.

The Milan Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese, which has a symbolic exemplary function both with regard to the life of religion in the city, and with regard to diocesan activity.

The Duomo - Milan Cathedral mass times

Milan Cathedral mass times

From Monday to Friday

  • 7.10
  • 8.00
  • 8.30 (in the Crypt)
  • 9.30 – 11.00 – 12.45 (suspended during the month of August)
  • 17.30
  • Recital of the Angelus: 12.00

Saturday

  • 8.00
  • 8.30 (in the Crypt)
  • 9.30
  • 11.00
  • Recital of the Angelus: 12.00

Sundays and holidays

  • 7.10
  • 8.00
  • 9.30
  • 11.00 (Capitular Eucharist)
  • 12.30
  • 17.30
  • Morning Lauds: 10.30
  • Vespers: 16.00


See our Top 15 catholic shrines around the world.

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Liturgical activity is the true essence of the Milan Cathedral: the Duomo is the heart of liturgical tradition which, referring to the figure of St. Ambrose, is an expression of the tangible form with which the apostolic tradition is deeply rooted and has developed over the centuries in the Church of Milan.

In the Milan Cathedral, daily liturgical worship is practiced in many different forms: not only celebrations of the Eucharist, but also, because of the constant presence of the Metropolitan Chapter, the Liturgy of the Hours, as preparation for and prolongation of the Eucharist.

Particular attention is paid to Eucharistic Adoration, the Liturgy of the Word, celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the most genuine and sincere forms of “popular piety”, such as reciting of the Rosary and, during Lent, the practice of the Stations of the Cross.

Liturgical worship by the faithful is the essence of the Cathedral which, in all of its expressions, above all through the countless works of art that it has preserved for centuries, is required to live and give testimony in the very heart of the city to faithfulness to Christ’s Gospel.

Information on the Milan Cathedral Church

Milan Cathedral, as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Milan, welcomes anyone who wishes to enter it to pray and contemplate its beauty and the works of art it contains.

The presence of large numbers of tourists however make it necessary to comply with a number of rules regarding behaviour, propriety of dress and observance of silence.

Everyday, from 8.00 am to 7.00 pm (last admission at 6.30 pm), the access through the Holy Door (the farthest north portal – Porta Minerbi, on the left side of the Cathedral) is reserved to worshippers.

From 7.00 am to 8.00 pm everyday, worshippers are able to enter also through the Cathedral side doors (Piazza del Duomo, Arcivescovado side).

The Milan Cathedral numbers

– 108.50 m – the height of the Madonnina from the ground
– 4.16 m – the height of the Madonnina
– 158.50 m – the external length
– 93 m – the external length
– 11,700 mq – the internal surface area
– 325,000 tons – the total weight of the 3,400 statues
– 200 bas-reliefs, over 3,600 characters in the 55 stained glass windows, 135 spires, 96 gargoyles

The Façade

When the structure and formal definition of the Duomo began to take shape, the architects immediately thought up ideas for the façade, but for a long time the façade remained that of the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the old cathedral over which building was taking place, gradually demolishing it as the construction work progressed.

The Duomo - Milan Cathedral mass times

The Madonnina

The symbol of the city and patroness of the Milanese people, the Madonnina was raised onto the main spire of Milan Cathedral in late December 1774: the huge statue is composed of embossed and gilded copper plates, supported by a framework which is now in stainless steel.

The first record of a proposal to place a statue of the Virgin Mary on the main spire can be found in a drawing by the architect Cesare Cesariano dated 1521, in which a central spire surmounted by a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption appears.

Francesco Croce, architect to the Veneranda Fabbrica, received the commission to build the main spire on 21 June 1762. In 1765, Croce suggested that the Great Spire should be decorated with a statue of the Virgin Mary carried up to heaven by angels.

Milan Cathedral

The commission to make the statue was entrusted to the sculptor Giuseppe Perego, who in 1769 proposed several models; the first was rejected by the Fabbrica del Duomo due to the enormous size of the composition, in particular of the tall base composed of angels and cherubs amid clouds; the second was rejected because of the figures of angels at its foot; the third model was on the contrary approved and made with the addition of tiny heads of little angels amid clouds.

There are still terracotta models of the first and third proposals and these can be admired in the Madonnina Room of the Grande Museo del Duomo, where the full-sized model for the head carved from a single piece of walnut wood and the original interior structure of the Madonnina, replaced during the restoration work in 1967, are also on show.

The resolution to commission the statue was passed on 17 June 1769, entrusting the work for the model to the sculptor and model maker Giuseppe Antignati, while the blacksmith Varino made the supporting framework.

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The Façade

When the structure and formal definition of the Duomo began to take shape, the architects immediately thought up ideas for the façade, but for a long time the façade remained that of the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the old cathedral over which building was taking place, gradually demolishing it as the construction work progressed.

It was not until 1683 that demolition of the old 15th century façade began and the masonry structure of the new façade was built, even though the question of the final design remained undecided until 1790. In this year the Chapter chose the proposal by Felice Soave which was a reappraisal in a simplified version of a design by Carlo Buzzi. From 1791 work began again according to the details set out in this last design.
The façade was completed on the initiative of Napoleon Bonaparte, expressed on the eve of his coronation and in a decree dated June 1805, which led to the Amati-Zanoja design.

The intention was to preserve the architectural structures already completed – the pillars that divide the façade into five parts, the main and lateral doors, and the four windows of the upper register – and it was for this reason that it was given a typically Lombard style gabled top, corresponding to the diminishing line of the interior vaults. Three large lancet windows were thus introduced into the three central parts and a gallery with a sloping Lombard band were created parallel to the sloping pitches of the roof.
Presented on 1 January 1807, the project was completed in 1813; the resulting façade was therefore an unusual combination of various projects and underwent further work when the ‘falconatura’ or decorations at the top of the façade were modified in 1932.

Architecture

Construction of the new Cathedral Church of Milan began when Gothic cathedral architecture had already reached the height of its development, in 1386 and it was decided that the new church should be built on the site of the basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Tecla.
The design was intended to comply with the elements of Lombard Gothic style, a more formal than substantial transcription of Lombard Romanesque style, from which it inherited the building experience, the structural decisions and the traditional material, brickwork.

Gian Galeazzo Visconti’s decision to use Candoglia marble in place of brickwork brought about an authentic revolution and forced the Fabbrica to seek engineers, architects, sculptors and stone-cutters who were expert in the Central European Gothic style in cathedral building sites all over Europe.
This was the origin of the unique Gothic style of the Duomo and it is for this reason too that it is not possible to trace the architect who worked on the delicate initial phase of design.

Practical decisions on site were always reached collectively with the engineers and experts working on the building, of whom there was always a considerable number and so the Duomo became a crossroads of people and cultures: a lively place for exchange of the most widely differing ideas, experiences and manual skills expressed by workers originating from the regions stretching from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians, thus making the Duomo the most European example of Gothic cathedrals.

When the flow of foreign manpower ended in the second decade of the 15th century, the building site of the Fabbrica continued with the criteria chosen, always remaining faithful to the “principle of conformity with the Gothic style”, at least this was so up to the arrival in Milan of Archbishop Carlo Borromeo (1565) and his architect Pellegrino Pellegrini (1567). The Council of Trent (1563) with its decrees, paved the way to the Counter Reformation or rather to the Catholic Reformation, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation.

Because of this, Carlo and Federico Borromeo took inspiration for their work on the Duomo from the architectural concepts and forms and the ecclesiastic furnishings of Papal Rome, giving the interior of the Duomo a new look: the grandiose architectural layout of the presbytery, the lateral altars, the crypt, the baptistery, the paving.

With the death of the two members of the Borromeo family and the gradual mitigation of their spiritual and cultural influence, it did not take long before the faithfulness of the Fabbrica to the Gothic style began to guide its decisions towards an architecture that was more static and less spiritual in its decorations, already influenced by the Neoclasical climate.

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Information on the Cathedral Church

Milan Cathedral, as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Milan, welcomes anyone who wishes to enter it to pray and contemplate its beauty and the works of art it contains. The presence of large numbers of tourists however make it necessary to comply with a number of rules regarding behaviour, propriety of dress and observance of silence.

Everyday, from 8.00 am to 7.00 pm (last admission at 6.30 pm), the access through the Holy Door (the farthest north portal – Porta Minerbi, on the left side of the Cathedral) is reserved to worshippers.

From 7.00 am to 8.00 pm everyday, worshippers are able to enter also through the Cathedral side doors (Piazza del Duomo, Arcivescovado side).

The Cathedral numbers

– 108.50 m – the height of the Madonnina from the ground
– 4.16 m – the height of the Madonnina
– 158.50 m – the external length
– 93 m – the external length
– 11,700 mq – the internal surface area
– 325,000 tons – the total weight of the 3,400 statues
– 200 bas-reliefs, over 3,600 characters in the 55 stained glass windows, 135 spires, 96 gargoyles

Visitor data

– 6,000,000 – total number of visitors per year
– 75% – percentage of foreign visitors that come to Milan for the Duomo
– 4,500 – opening hours per year
– 110,000 – hours per year spent in restoration works

The Madonnina

The symbol of the city and patroness of the Milanese people, the Madonnina was raised onto the main spire of Milan Cathedral in late December 1774: the huge statue is composed of embossed and gilded copper plates, supported by a framework which is now in stainless steel. Origin and history

The first record of a proposal to place a statue of the Virgin Mary on the main spire can be found in a drawing by the architect Cesare Cesariano dated 1521, in which a central spire surmounted by a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption appears.

Francesco Croce, architect to the Veneranda Fabbrica, received the commission to build the main spire on 21 June 1762. In 1765, Croce suggested that the Great Spire should be decorated with a statue of the Virgin Mary carried up to heaven by angels.

The commission to make the statue was entrusted to the sculptor Giuseppe Perego, who in 1769 proposed several models; the first was rejected by the Fabbrica del Duomo due to the enormous size of the composition, in particular of the tall base composed of angels and cherubs amid clouds; the second was rejected because of the figures of angels at its foot; the third model was on the contrary approved and made with the addition of tiny heads of little angels amid clouds.

There are still terracotta models of the first and third proposals and these can be admired in the Madonnina Room of the Grande Museo del Duomo, where the full-sized model for the head carved from a single piece of walnut wood and the original interior structure of the Madonnina, replaced during the restoration work in 1967, are also on show.

The resolution to commission the statue was passed on 17 June 1769, entrusting the work for the model to the sculptor and model maker Giuseppe Antignati, while the blacksmith Varino made the supporting framework.

The goldsmith Giuseppe Bini was chosen to model and beat the copper plates onto the wooden model, while the gilding was accomplished using 156 books, each with 2 leafs of pure gold, at the suggestion of the painter Anton Raphael Mengs.

No particular ceremonies were held to mark the positioning of the Madonnina, which was completed in 1773, but remained in the Veneranda Fabbrica building until 30 October 1774 due to initial fear of thunderbolts and wind.

In August 1939, on the eve of World War II, the Madonnina was covered with a grey-green cloth and remained covered for five years, to avoid providing an easy target for fighter-bombers.
It was once again uncovered on 6 May 1945 with a solemn ceremony by Cardinal Schuster, then archbishop of Milan.

From 9 June to 27 July 1967, restoration of the Madonnina involved total dismantling of the copper plates and mordant regilding, as well as replacement of the original inner iron structure, which was dangerously corroded, with a new one in stainless steel.

The most recent work to regild the Madonnina was conducted in 2012, during restoration work on the Main Spire.
A few numbers:

• 4.16 m: the height of the Madonnina
• 33: the number of copper plates cladding the statue
• 399.200 kg: the weight of the plates
• 584.800 kg: the weight of the stainless steel supporting structure
• 6750: the sheets of pure gold foil used for the latest gilding work

The Duomo Organ

The great organ in the Milan Cathedral was built in 1938 by the Mascioni firm of Cuvio (Varese) and by Tamburini of Crema, and was restored and repositioned entirely in the Presbytery by Tamburini in 1986. It remains firmly in second place in Europe for the number of pipes and ranks (only to the instrument in Passau cathedral in Germany surpasses it), and it is one of the fifteen largest organs in the world.

The specifications of this “giant” instrument are truly impressive:
• 15,800 pipes, the longest being over nine metres long, and the smallest just a few centimetres
• Five organs (Great organ North and South sides – Positive and Recitative North side – Solo and Echo South side – Choir level with altar)
• Five consoles (principal five-manual console, altar-side three-manual console, choir two-manual console, two single-manual apse consoles)

Although these figures are amazing in themselves, the artistic characteristics are even more outstanding: the great cathedral organ was built by two of the most significant families of 20th century organ-makers. It combines the incomparable voice of Italian tradition with a decidedly eclectic range of stops, which guarantee the perfect interpretation of most works written for the organ, an instrument with a truly exceptional timbre for the execution of a Romantic and symphonic repertoire, on a par with Europe’s most important cathedral organs.

To this we must add the excellent craftsmanship of the processes and technologies employed by the organ-makers: there is nothing standardised or “industrial” in this organ, and every element was designed to create a unique instrument for a unique environment.

The organ was conceived in 1938 with a truly grandiose plan: seven organs were positioned in different points about the cathedral, in this order:

• Positive organ – corresponding to the 1st manual, high up in the large window above the altar of St. Tecla.
• Great organ – corresponding to the 2nd manual, in the two artistic cases on either side of the high altar.
• Recitative organ – corresponding to the 3rd manual, high up in the large window overlooking the ambulatory behind the choir (on the mass Sacristy side).
• Choir organ – corresponding to the 3rd manual, on the choir stall platform at the end of the Chapter choir; the principal five-manual console was located on the same choir stall, while the single-manual “choir” console was placed behind the high altar where it could be used to accompany the services of the Canons,
• Solo organ – corresponding to the 4th manual, high up in the window that overlooks the statue of St. Bartholomew.
• Echo organ – corresponding to the 5th manual, high up in the window that overlooks the ambulatory behind the choir (Chapter sacristy side).

The organ had its first performance on November 4, 1938 (the quatercentenary of the birth of St. Carlo Borromeo), with a performance of Lorenzo Perosi’s “Missa Sancti Caroli”. It was officially inaugurated in two memorable concerts on November 17 and 22 that same year by some of the best Italian organists of the day, Adolfo Bossi, Luigi Ferrari Trecate, Santo Spinelli, Ulisse Matthey and Fernando Germani. It lent itself superbly to the needs of the liturgy in the following decades until the mid-1960s when it became necessary to dismantle it completely so that unavoidable work could be carried out to reinforce the structure of the Duomo itself.

To compensate for a temporary lack of an organ, the Tamburini firm built a new choir organ with mechanical action, mounted on a motorised mobile trolley, which could be moved around to positions not affected by the building work.

When the conditions for the relocation of the original body of the organ were realised in 1984, the proposal was analysed carefully and an ambitious technical-architectural solution was adopted, grouping the various organ elements in the Presbytery. The many thousands of pipes formerly “scattered” around the cathedral were positioned behind the large windows above the sacristies. Two completely new cases were created, one on either side of the 16th century cases which, although perhaps aesthetically questionable, do have the advantage of grouping the sound material together, avoiding the significant problems of controlling the whole instrument and the stability of the tuning that were commonplace with the previous arrangement.

The large five-manual console (a true masterpiece) was positioned on the right side of the Presbytery, where it was the same distance from all the sound sections, while a secondary console with three manuals was positioned at ground level, on the left side of the altar opposite the choir organ, which it is linked to electro-mechanically This solution made it easier to accompany the choir, intervening in the case of solo performances or when a large sound was necessary, with part of the Presbytery divisions (Great organ North – 1st manual and Great organ South – 3rd manual).

The entire structure of the restored organ was ceremoniously inaugurated on September 8, 1986 with a concert by Luigi Benedetti, who was then the principal organist at the Milan Cathedral.
In the hands of the two principal cathedral organists, the instrument enhances all the services on the eve and the day of religious holidays, but has also proved its worth for concert performances given by some of the world’s most outstanding musicians.

History facts

The history of the Duomo

The history of the building can be summed up in the following basic stages:

The beginning of the Duomo of Milan (1386-1387)
Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo made plans for a new Cathedral, to be built on the site of Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente.

The Visconti era (1387-1447)
Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, set up the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo charging it with supervising the work of design, building and conservation of the Cathedral and decided to use Candoglia marble to construct the whole monument.
Architects, sculptors and workers from Central Europe arrived in Milan, attracted by the magnificence of the project.

The Sforza era (1450-1520)
The building of the nave and aisles reached the third from last bay, and the elegant first minor spire sculpted by Amadeo (Gugliotto dell’Amadeo) was built and the most beautiful stained glass windows were installed.

The Borromeo era (1560-1650)
Under the archbishops Carlo and Federico Borromeo the style of the Duomo was influenced by the Catholic Reformation, and examples of this influence are the ‘Quadroni’ or large paintings of San Carlo and the wooden choir.

17th-18th Centuries (1650-1800)
The crossing was completed with the main spire and the Madonnina statue crowning it.

19th Century (1800-1900)
In this period the facade and the ornamental elements were completed.
The historiated stained glass windows date from this period, but were made using enamel painted glass.

From the 20th century to the present day (1900 to date)
This has been the period of major restoration work, in which the first archaeological excavations were made in the Cathedral Square.

Special prayers

The ancient centre of Christian religion

As long ago as 1914, Ugo Monnet de Villard, when interpreting a number of surveys of the excavations made in 1870, recognised that the remains of late Roman walls found in front of the facade of the Duomo, beneath the paving of the parvis, were what remained of the Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti.
Subsequent excavations by the Office of Antiquities, begun in 1961, brought to light the whole layout of the baptistery and the apses of Santa Tecla.
In 1997, to mark the 16th centenary of the death of St. Ambrose, further excavations were carried out resulting in the finding of interesting wall structures and archaeological remains that provide evidence of early Christianity in Milan.

Basilica Vetus and the Baptistery of Santo Stefano alle fonti

The Basilica Vetus was the building, described by St. Ambrose in a letter to his sister Marcellina, which may originally have been a “domus ecclesiae”, with a large hall located in the apse area of the present Duomo, referred to by Ambrose as the “basilica iemalis” (winter basilica), in alternative to Santa Tecla then known as the “basilica estiva” (summer basilica).
It was the residence of the bishop, and it was there that the faithful gathered to celebrate the fraternal agape or fraternal love feast and where catechumens were prepared for baptism: a sort of early cathedral. After Constantine’s Edict, promulgated in Milan in 313, the group of basilicae underwent transformations and the font of the Baptistery of Santo Stefano, rediscovered at the end of the 19th century under the north sacristy of the Duomo, is thought to date from that period.
The octagonal font has a foundation bed and masonry similar to that of the more ancient apse of Santa Tecla.If this is true, the elected Bishop St. Ambrose was baptised in this font on 30 November 374.

Basilica di Santa Tecla

Ambrose called it the “basilica nova quae major est” and it is the first true cathedral built for that purpose. It was large (67.60×45.30 metres), with a large apse that is still visible under the upper parvis, and its nave and four aisles stretched under the present cathedral square.
It can be dated from around the third-fourth decade of the 4th century. Over the centuries it underwent changes, was burnt down and rebuilt, until its gradual demolition in the 15th century, completed in 1461, to make room for the Duomo construction site, which had then been built up to the first bays of the pillars, beyond the transept.

Baptistery of San Giovanni alle fonti

The first baptistery in Christianity to have an immersion font and an octagonal construction.
The octagon commemorates, together with the seven days of creation, the eighth day, that of eternity, but also the eight evangelical beatitudes. St. Ambrose, who is said to have started work on it in 387, may have been inspired by the octagonal imperial mausoleum of Maximian: catechumens, entering the baptistery, thus were supposed to have the sensation of entering a tomb so that the men that they had formerly been would die and, as St. Paul says, would rise again with a new life in the holy water. Inside, the baptistery had eight niches, alternately rectangular and semicircular, overlooking the sides of the large central font, which had three steps leading down into it.

A series of porphyry columns supporting a marble entablature stood in front of the counterforts between these niches, on which a large dome with elaborate mosaic decorations was placed. Visitors who wish to get an idea of the appearance of the whole construction should go to the Basilica of San Lorenzo and see the Chapel of Sant’Aquilino outside and inside. Built towards the end of the 4th century, it differs only slightly in size from the baptistery and its Roman identity has survived unchanged. Ambrose baptised St. Augustine in the font of San Giovanni on the eve before Easter 387. Just after began the Duomo construction site, the Fabbrica auctioned off the columns and marble of the Baptistery which was then demolished in 1394.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Known as the winter basilica, rather smaller than Santa Tecla and built with thick walls and a vaulted roof and, continuing the tradition already established with the Basilica Vetus, it was the second basilica of the Cathedral complex. Indeed, for a millennium, Milan had a “double” cathedral, alternating liturgical services in the two basilicas. It occupied approximately the space later used for the nave of the Duomo, and measured seventy or so metres in length with the apse in the area of San Carlo’s scurolo. Much of it was destroyed more than once, rebuilt and enlarged and then gradually demolished as the work on the Duomo progressed. For two centuries its facade became the temporary facade of the new cathedral and was finally demolished at the end of the 17th century.

Mass times

From Monday to Friday

  • 7.10
  • 8.00
  • 8.30 (in the Crypt)
  • 9.30 – 11.00 – 12.45 (suspended during the month of August)
  • 17.30
  • Recital of the Angelus: 12.00

Saturday

  • 8.00
  • 8.30 (in the Crypt)
  • 9.30
  • 11.00
  • Recital of the Angelus: 12.00

Sundays and holidays

  • 7.10
  • 8.00
  • 9.30
  • 11.00 (Capitular Eucharist)
  • 12.30
  • 17.30
  • Morning Lauds: 10.30
  • Vespers: 16.00
Confession times
Rosary prayer
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  • All other landmarks in Milan are easy to reach.
  • The hotel’s traditional-style rooms feature bright colours and furnishings. Soft drinks from the minibar are included.
  • The Gran Duca Di York is located within walking distance of the Duomo Cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s most exclusive shopping arcade.
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