Milan Cathedral

Published date: 09/07/2024
  • Location: Milan,, Miracolo, Basilicate, Italy
In 1386 work began on an extraordinary Gothic cathedral in central Milan. It was built on a site that had been home to several churches since the 5th century. The huge cathedral—second only to St. Peter’s as the largest church in Italy—shows the influence of northern European architecture on Italy at this period. Several of the architects and masons came from north of the Alps, although others were local men. The building reflects the contemporary tensions between north European Gothic and Italian Renaissance styles.

Construction was sporadic, with the initial work completed by about 1420. More work was begun in the late 15th century and continued for about a century. The 17th and 18th centuries saw even more construction, including the impressive Madonna’s spire. Before Napoleon’s coronation as king of Italy in 1805, he ordered the completion of the facade—work that went on into the 19th and 20th centuries. The architects were careful to respect the building’s Gothic origins.

Any visitor to Milan’s cathedral will be immediately struck by the size of the central nave, whose height is second to that of the choir of Beauvais in France. Other features of interest include the magnificent windows—fine examples of “flowery Gothic”—several altars, and the ornate sarcophagi of the church’s benefactors, including that of Marco Carelli, who donated 35,000 ducats in the 15th century. (Adrian Gilbert)

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