Milan Cathedral is a wondrous building to look at from the outside, a symbol of the heart of the city. It’s free to walk around the building and actually free to go into the main part of the cathedral. I was very surprised about this and was worried that when I joined the group of people waiting to go through the solid doors that I would be stopped and asked for payment. This wasn’t the case.
Inside, the floor space seemed huge as did the 52 soft marble pillars holding up the vaulted ceiling which is crossed. This is one of the highest roofs I have seen inside a church and it is remarkable. The interior is quite dark inside and I found some of the altars very beautiful but difficult to see the intricate carvings. It was very cool and at the time we visited a service was being held. Parishioners were sat on the pews and the choir was singing. My husband stood and listened to the choir while I wandered off to look at the altars designed by Pellegrino Pellegrini. As voices from the choir boys followed me around the cathedral, I felt overcome with emotion, the service was moving as well.
Of course, we weren’t allowed to go where the pews were; we stood from a distance but could see the parishioners praying and the clouds of smoke wafting towards us from the burning incense. I didn’t realise just how much incense is burnt – the smoke cloud was really thick which made it impossible to see the Bishop or whoever it was leading the service and how the choir boys managed to sing in tune was beyond me. I’m not being melodramatic here, other people put handkerchiefs over their faces and I could see quite a few visitors affected by the smoke.
There are far too many statues and works of art to mention but the one that sticks out in my memory is the one of St. Bartholomew that stands on a marble pillar near to the doorway on the left of the church. Marco d’Agrate made this haunting sculpture depicting the saint wearing his skin as a cloak. You can see the sinews, muscles and bones of his body in true skeletal form. It is really scary and amazing at the same time. Other fascinating pieces are the Renaissance marble altar which you can find in the right transept and the piped organ, close to St. Bartholomew.
The tiled floor has been elegantly designed in three colours of marble and the six stemmed Trivulzio Candelabrum which stands on the left side, in the north transept is fascinating to view especially the base which was made in the 12th century and is a masterpiece of goldsmithing.
We spent over 40 minutes in the main body of the church and both of us were delighted with the interior and really pleased that we were able to catch the service and listen to the choir.
Inside the front of the Duomo there is a passageway which leads to a palaeo- Christian baptistery. This has been excavated, is open daily from 09.30 – 1700 hours and there is an admission fee. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are interested in mosaics, patterned marble floors and glass cases that hold stone carvings.
I love everything about the Duomo in Milan and can’t recommend it enough. Walk around the exterior, visit the interior and take a climb up the steep steps to the rooftop to view this fantastic city. It’s a fantastic experience.