LOMBARDIA - Milano - Cathedral
SCHEDA : Milano Cathedral


Milano CathedralOn a marble slab placed in the Milan Cathedral the following remark is inscribed :" Il principio del domo fu nell’anno 1386" [The beginning of the Cathedral goes back to the year 1386]. But the initial date is unknown: likewise, the name of the architect who created and drew up the general plan of the monument is uncertain; many names were suggested by the historians, but so far we have reached no certainty.
The first name registered in the documents of the Veneranda Fabbrica archives dates back to the year 1387, when Simone da Orsenigo was appointed Ingegnere generale [ Chief Engineer ] of the Veneranda Fabbrica ; yet he seems to have been the supervisor or master mason rather than the designer, although he offered several working suggestions.
Likely the project of an imposing gothic cathedral must be ascribed to the Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti who was looked for a status symbol of his outstanding prestige. In fact the Duke dictated radical innovations of the Lombard Gothic style taking hints from the grandiose Mitteleuropean Gothic cathedrals and replacing the plain bricwork with the marble of Candoglia . Gian Galeazzo was a generous patron: he granted many immunities and gave the marble quarry of Candoglia, from which the block of pinkish white marble were carried by water through the Lake Maggiore , the Ticino river and the Navigli shipway until the Laghetto little port near the cathedral apse.
The Cathedral was the grandiose achievement of the Lombard skilled workers being aware of the european technical progress. There was the clearly expressed solidarity and generous help of all the citizens who since the beginning had considered the Duomo as their own. The enthousiasm of the people was also fostered by the will and the activity of the Archibishop Antonio da Saluzzo who promoted a big fund raisin .Everyone concurred in financing the undertaking . Many Milanese nobles contributed with donations and large bequests; but the most valid help in building the cathedral was the will of the entire population who was generous in providing money and work: citizens of all classes worked without salary handling shovels and picks to dig foundations; the guilds of weavers, bakers, millers, butchers, armourers, shoemakers, tanners, fishermen, physicians, apothecaries, goldsmiths gave their contribution . It was said that even the Provision Vicar and the Podestà worked in the yard for many days; while groups of young girls wearing white dresses in white named the Cantagole went through the town and the countryside singing and collecting offerings for the Cathedral. The building, as usual, started from the apse; the two sacristies, the rear choir, the presbytery by 1418 were finished by 1418, and embellished with statues and stained glass. Afterwards the building works went on ,more or less, without interruption for many centuries. The building structure during the Visconti dukes dominion was limited to the transept area and still contained the ancient church of St. Maria Maggiore. In the second half of the XVI century, the Cathedral was enlarged so that it was necessary to demolish the nearby building of the Arengo ducale . During the domination of the Duke Francesco Sforza several artists had worked at the Cathedral: Leonardo and Bramante were busy working out the cupola and dome problems , while the glaziers created many stained glass which were gifts of the most important guilds. To complete the impressive building , Perego (1774) put on the top of the highest pinnacle the famous gold plated statue of the Virgin named Madonnina, towering 135 spires and pinnacles, 150 gargoyles, 96 statues of giants: an extraordinary Bible made of stone with 3400 statues.
The cathedral named by Besozzo l’Ottava meraviglia del mondo, has 164 large windows; 55 of which are decorated by stained glass; this important corpus (mq.1700), allows us to follow the cathedral windows history from the beginning up to the present day.
In the entrance of the building cause of the considerable width of the cathedral it is impossible to look simultaneously at the XVI century stained glass of the north aisle and at those of the XV century in the south windows. In fact many panels of the ancient windows once located in the rear choir, were restored by the Bertini family who reassembled them in the south aisle windows. More complicated and monumental is the structure of the four mullioned windows in the transept. Few original panels of XV and XVI century are still preserved in the three big windows of the rear choir (m. 22,50 x 11) , where the ancient stained glass have been almost completely substituted by modern panels painted by Giovanni Bertini and his sons Giuseppe and Pompeo (1864 – 1865) 

Ernesto Brivio

For details see the  plan of the Cathedral  and the diagram of the windows