Due to the Cathedral's construction history, much of the interior design is quite different to the classical Gothic exterior look. Bright marble adorns grandiose columns lining the main nave of the cathedral. Wooden pews occupy the majority of the space inside as the Cathedral functions to this day with regular services throughout the week.
There is plenty to see inside split between the various parts of the Cathedral. The museum is currently undergoing restoration and is shut, but despite this the Duomo's splendour cannot be missed if you're visiting Milan.
The perimeter of the Cathedral houses a number of beautiful works of art including the St. Bartholomew statue which replaced a number of old tombs and ornaments during a renovation in the 16th century. One of the most revered assets of the building is a nail which is securely stored in the apex of the Cathedral's central dome. This nail is said to have been used during Christ's Crucifixion and is retrieved annually for a mass celebration.
The top of the Cathedral offers some of the best views of the city of Milan and can be particularly romantic at sunset. You can make your way up in the lift if you want to avoid marching up and down the stairs. Busloads of tourists can be easily spotted arriving at the Cathedral on a grand tour of Italy and we would highly recommend grabbing a gelato (ice cream) from one of the many stalls around the main square and taking a chill pill during busy periods as they will pile out some 20 minutes later making for a peaceful and relaxing visit.
The construction of Milan's Duomo Cathedral was started in 1386 on the spot where a number of churches and Basilicas had stood previously, but were either destroyed or rebuilt over time. The Design of the Cathedral bears an uncanny resemblance to the Gothic style of many of France's top cathédrales and would appear to be more at home in Paris than Italy due to the taste of Archbishop da Saluzzo who had commisioned the construction.
A number of buildings occupying Milan's central square had to be demolished as part of the plans including the Archbishop's Palace, the Ordinari Palace and the Baptistry of St. Stephen. A number of other ruined churches in the city were sacrificed for their stone for the Cathedral alongside materials brought up from mines in Lombardia's Alpine foothills.
The large-scale project was chiefly run by a string of high profile Parisian architects in the early years and a large part of the Cathedral was completed in the first 15 years of construction only for funds to run out and the building work to largely cease for a century. A number of decorative elements such as windows, naves and minor decorative touches were added over the course of the 15th century as the cathedral stood incomplete.
As Carlo Borromeo became Archbishop in the 16th century, plans for the Cathedral were radically altered. Work on the interior was intensified, but plans for the façades were scrapped in favour of a more traditional Italian Renaissance style complete with large columns supporting a Pantheon-style triangular front overhang. Alongside these changes, all the statues and tombs from inside the Cathedral with the exception of Pope Martin V were removed never to be recovered.
Luckily for the structural integrity of the building, these radical plans were scrapped by subsequent rulers and archbishops and the Gothic structure was largely complete by 1812, partly due to the promised, but never delivered payment by Napoleon who incidentally was crowned King of Italy in the Duomo. A number of small additions including ornamental decoration, statues and entrance reconstructions continued into the 20th century with all works completed in 1965.
Throughout the Year
Entry to the Cathedral, Duomo Museum and San Gottardo in Corte Church
Duomo di Milano Italy