CATHEDRAL, EXTERIOR

Audio File length: 2.08
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

To visit the Cathedral, do the opposite of what everyone else does, and start at the back instead of at the front. That's where the church's construction began.

 

You'll immediately be struck by the extraordinary decorations and monumental statues. It is a continuous blend of architecture and sculpture: if you are impressed by the gargoyles, or huge statues holding strange and monstrous animals, consider that in addition to their decorative function they are also practical because they serve as gutters for draining rainwater. When there are heavy rains (which often happens in Milan!), they transform the Cathedral into a fantastic fountain.

 

Keep walking around the Cathedral's exterior, and you'll notice the number and unusual size of the windows, all with colorful stained glass, which is unusual for an Italian church. The center of the church was built at the end of the 1400s and many famous architects have worked on it, including even the great Leonardo da Vinci. Its height is phenomenal: the vault inside reaches 69 meters!

 

You won't believe it, but the construction of the Cathedral lasted more than 500 years! Century after century, they continued to modify a part, then add another one, and so on... there's even a saying in Milan to talk about something that never ends, "Slow as the Factory of the Cathedral". Just think, it took two hundred years to finish the five naves, the portals and the lower part of the façade alone! Even though its architectural structure has always kept to the original design, the style of the statues changes over the centuries, starting from Gothic and going all the way up to contemporary art. The façade wasn't completed until the late nineteenth century, but in practice work on the Cathedral never stopped.

 

FUN FACT: notice how there are 5 doors in the façade, but only one side door. It was Saint Carlo Borromeo who had the door on the opposite side walled up, after realizing that many Milanese weren't using the Cathedral for religious reasons, but simply for passing... more quickly to the other side of the square! 

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