Milan Cathedral, called Duomo di Milano in Italian, is a vast Gothic styled cathedral, located in the heart of Milan. It is 515 ft (157 metres) long and 302 ft (92 m) wide. It can house up to 40.000 people. Il Duomo di Milano is one of the largest Catholic churches in the world.
The site where the Cathedral is currently situated was previously occupied by the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio since the fifth century. In 838 the Basilica di Santa Tecla was founded next to the first church. In 1075 a fire devastated both buildings and a few centuries later, the Duomo was established in the same location.
The construction of Milan Cathedral began in 1386, which coincided with Gian Galeazzo Visconti coming into power. The purpose of this impressive construction was to modernize the area and to celebrate the expansion of the Visconti territory.
The Cathedral took five centuries to complete. During this time, various architects, sculptors and artists contributed to the famous construction program known as the “Fabbrica del Duomo”. The result was an impressive and unique piece of architecture, which merged the international Gothic style with the Lombard Romanesque style.
The structure was covered with white and pink marble from the Candoglia quarry in Val D’Ossola. The Cathedral’s roof is covered in openwork pinnacles and spires crowned with sculptures that overlook the city.
On the highest spire of the temple is the Madonnina, a gilded bronze statue, which was sculpted by Giuseppe Perego in 1774. Over the years it has become the symbol of Milan.
Milan Cathedral is a vast structure made of large darkened marble plates. The interior is elegant and stately thanks to its large sculpted marble columns that reach the ceiling.
Large paintings adorn the walls of the temple, representing various scenes from the Bible and the skeletons of various saints lie in glass caskets spread throughout the building, all dressed in their best attires.
Some of the Cathedral’s highlights are the statue of Bartholomew the Apostle, patron saint of the tanners. The saint is depicted with his skin hanging off his shoulders as a reference to the martyrdom he suffered.
One of the most precious objects housed in the Duomo is situated in the dome behind the alter, it is one of the nails used during the Crucifixion of Christ. It is only exposed to the public once a year, on the Saturday closest to the 14 September.
The rooftop terrace is practically as large as the whole roof of the Cathedral. Tourists can climb to the top and walk along the terrace, while you enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Milan. It is also fascinating to see the pinnacles and the roof’s sculptures.
You can either climb to the top by foot, the stairs are fairly comfortable or you get up by using the elevator, but you will need to pay a surplus.
The crypt is located in the Chapel of Saint Charles Borromeo, where his remains are buried. You can also visit the Cathedral Treasure, although in our opinion it isn’t very interesting and there is little to see.
Under the Duomo, visitors can climb down to the archaeological remains to see what is left of the Basilica di Santa Tecla and the ruins of a Christian baptistery from the fourth century. In the center of this building you will see the remains of a large octagonal baptismal font, where, according to a legend, Saint Ambroise baptised Saint Augustin in 387.
Il Duomo di Milano is one of the most important attractions in Milan and is well worth visiting. Moreover, climbing to the top of the rooftop terrace offers breath-taking views of the city. However, the Treasure is not as recommendable as the other parts of the Cathedral.
Keep in mind that even if you visit the city in summer and it is very hot, you will need to wear clothing that cover your shoulders and and knees, otherwise you will most likely not be allowed in.
Piazza del Duomo. In the center of Milan.
Cathedral: Every day from 8 am until 7 pm
Museum: Thursday to Tuesday from 10 am until 6 pm
Baptistery: Every day from 9 am until 6 pm
Archaeological area: Every day from 9 am until 7 pm
Rooftop terrace: Daily from 9 am until 7 pm
Cathedral and Museum
Children (less than 6 years old): free entry.
Young (less than 26 years old): 2€.
Elevator: 13€ (adults) and 7€ (children aged 6-12).
Stairs: 8€ (adults) and 4€ (children aged 6-12).
Free Access for children less than 6 years old.
Metro: Duomo, lines 1 and 3.
Tram: Torino (Duomo), lines 2, 3 and 14; Dogana (Duomo), line 24.