Interesting and fun facts about Milan cathedral that will help you make the most of your visit. Milan cathedral facts for kids and adults.
Milan’s Cathedral or Duomo di Milano as it is called in Italian, is the most famous monument in Milan and one of the most iconic landmarks in Italy.
It is a building with striking appearance and an interesting history: these are some fun and interesting facts about Milan’s cathedral that will enhance your visit.
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Fun and interesting facts about Milan Cathedral
Milan’s cathedral is the Duomo
Usually referred to as ‘Il Duomo’, Milan’s cathedral is a church devoted to the Nativity of the Virgin.
Its official name is Santa Maria Nascente this is why, at the very top of the church, you find the famous Madonnina, the golden statue of Mary, symbol of Milan.
Milan’s Cathedral is of Gothic Style
Milan cathedral is a wonderful examples of Gothic architecture and it is unique in Italy as strongly influenced by the aesthetic of Norther European Churches such as those in France and Germany.
If you compare it with other great examples of Italian Gothic architecture, for instance the Duomo of Siena or Orvieto, it is easy to see the difference in proportion and style of carvings.
Milan Cathedral took over 6 centuries to complete
The construction of the Milan duomo took over six centuries.
The built started in 1386 and the church was officially inaugurated in 1418.
However, not all its parts were complete at the time and construction was still going under Napoleon, in the XIX century!
The construction of the church started under under Bishop Antonio da Saluzzo and was supported by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, one of the most famous rulers of Milan, who gave ideas and financial support to the project.
He wanted the chathedral to stand out from all other buildings in Milan and therefore chose as construction material white Candoglia Marble, a peculiar type of Marble from Lake Maggiore area.
This marble has a white color with pink hues and it is very delicate: this is one of the radon why work is ongoing at the duomo even nowadays.
The church has always been devoted to feminine figures
The church was built above a previous religious temple dedicated to a feminine Celtic deity (Belisama) and the ruins of two previous churches, also devoted to feminine figures: Santa Tecla and Santa Maria Maggiore.
While the pagan temple is not longer in existence, the church maintained this female connection through the figure of the Virgin Mary, following a patters also common for other Christian built.
How big is Milan’s cathedral
Some of the most interesting and jaw dropping facts about Milan Cathedral have to do with its size.
Milan’s cathedral is said one of the biggest Christian churches in the world and the biggest gothic cathedrals ever made.
It has 40 pillars and 5 naves, the central one 45 mt tall and it si 156 mt long, 11,700 sqm big and it can contain over 40,000 people.
The duomo has 55 stunning stained glass windows with elaborate depictions of religious parables and episodes from the Bible.
The church is said to have the highest number of statues out of any church in the world
Its façade is indeed exceptionally intricate with statues of human and divine figures as well as gargoyles.
They say there are over 4000 statues on it and 135 spires, an elaborate appearance that it typical of the gothic style.
The statues are varied in appearance and some attract particular attention and curiosity: among the most famous, there is one reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, one of Napoleon, boxers and sports equipment carvings!
Good to know: one of the best ways to appreciate and admire the statues and carvings of Milan’s Duomo is to climb up to the Duomo Terrace. Steps and lifts are available and the climb is not too scary even in for people with a fear of heights. See below for more info.
Milan Cathedral holds a nail from the True Cross
The cathedral is said to have had the reliquiary of one of the nails from Jesus cross.
The nail was originally kept in the basilica of Santa Tecla and relocated to the Duomo in 1461.
A red light marks the spot on the cathedral apse where the nail is kep.
The nail is at the center of a peculiar ritual called ‘Nivola’ during which the nail is shown to the faithful.
This ritual dates back to the XVI century at least and takes its name from the ‘nivola’ a special contraption used to move the nail from its protected position to eye level for the faithful to see.
Milan’s duomo has a sundial
In 1768 the astronomers from the Brera Academy created a sundial for the church that is still visible and accurate and it was used to set the time for the whole city.
Milan’s Duomo has the famous Madonnina on top
Madonnina (Lit. Little Madonna) is the name given to the statue of Mary perched on the highest point of the Cathedral and the statue is as impressive as the rest of the church.
The construction of the statue was decided on the 17th June 1769 and her gilding involved 156 booklets.
Currently, the Madonnina statue is 4.16 meters tall and has 33 copper plates and 6750 sheets of pure gold that make up her last gilding.
The weight of her supporting structure is 584,800 Kg and the weigh of the slabs is 399,200 Kg! The Little Madonna of Milan’s cathedral is not so little after all.
In her right hand she holds a spire that is not just symbolic of her power. Is it also a lightning rod!
Milan’s Cathedral has one of the biggest organs in the world
Inside Milan’s Cathedral there is a stunning organ Built by Mascioni of Cuvio and Tamburini of Crema in 1938.
The organ is impressive in sight, sound and numbers.
It has 15,800 pipes, ranging from a height of few centimetres to a height of over nine meters, 5 consoles with 12 keyboards and 180 registers for over 3000 combinations, data that make it the biggest church organ in Italy and one of the biggest in the world.
Where is Milan Cathedral located? Address and how to get there
Milan Duomo is right in the center of the city and it is easy to reach by metro.
Its official address is Piazza Duomo, 20122 Milano MI, Italy.
The stop is right in the piazza and the cathedral is right in front of you as you exit.
The stop is ‘Duomo’ and it is one the yellow line connecting Stazione Centrale and San Donato.
The duomo is also walking distance from Castello Sforzesco (Milan Sforza castle) and it is just beside the Milano Gallery, two other important Milan landmarks you can easily visit after the duomo.
You can read how to include the Duomo in your Milan itinerary here.
How to visit Milan’s cathedral
There are several ways to visit Milan’s cathedral, depending what parts of it you are most interested in.
Click each link for info:
- Milan Cathedral and terrace entry ticket
- Guided tour of Milan duomo, 1 hour
- Fast Track Cathedral and Terrace Guided Tour
- Milan Duomo Terrace Only ticket
I hope you enjoyed these facts about Milan Cathedral and you enjoy your visit. Safe travel planning!