Checking up the Duomo health

People travelling to Milan always visit the Cathedral and its hidden treasures; but what they don’t know is that this monument has a 600 year old history. The foundation stone was laid in 1386 whilst the last bronze portal on the right side of the façade was installed in 1965.

Over the years, completing the construction work of one of the biggest Christian cathedrals in the world and looking after it has always been a difficult task. The Duomo’s vital statistics are testimony to the monument’s size and how hard it is to maintain: the internal surface measures 11,700 square metres; it houses 3.400 statues, 55 stained glass windows, 135 spires and 150 gutters. It is an inimitable heritage site that needs to be protected and passed down generations for posterity.

The Cathedral (Duomo in Italian) was built using a unique type of white marble with lovely rose, blue and green stripes running through it. A magnificent variety of marble but less resistant to time, pollution and vibrations caused by city traffic than the ordinary white marble used for centuries to build other churches. The Duomo’s Candoglia Marble, is not eternal.

The Duomo’s most fragile architectural element is its spires. They require constant care and complex operations to keep them safe and help them maintain their traditional soaring look which seem determined to reach up and actually touch the sky.

DuomoGugliaRestauro.jpgThe non-profit institution, Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo (VFB) owns the Duomo and has been responsible for its maintenance over the last 600 years. The long established charity has access to quarries in Candoglia in the Alps where it sources the important marble which is why all the parts of the Duomo suffering stability problems can be replaced using exactly the same kind of stone and grain.

Once the marble reaches Milan, it is then transferred to a manufacturing site: the marble cutting facility, where highly skilled stone cutters and sculptors transform the raw marble blocks into statues, ornaments, capitals, gutters and all the unique architectural elements that have made the Duomo famous all over the world.

The important restoration project in 1969 solved problems linked to the static of the four columns of the lantern which were damaged by the strong subsidence of the phreatic aquifer and vibrations caused by urban traffic. The restoration was preceded by more than 10 years of studies and trials. This project was conceived as an effort to consolidate the 21 secondary columns and, from 1981 to 1984, to repair damage suffered by the four main columns under the lantern: definitively restoring strength and efficiency to the Duomo’s core static system.

Since 2012, the VFB has invited institutions, companies and citizens to add their names to the “Adotta una Guglia” (Get your Spire) campaign. The campaign was set up to fund new and urgent restoration projects costing tens of millions of Euros: the VFB needs this money in order to continue to maintain and improve Milan’s great cathedral.

Anyone can participate in the Get your Spire project: from the important international companies that obtained an exceptional permit to sponsor a big advertising screen, to individuals who – with small amounts of money or private donations – can become part of a patrons register which updates them on the restoration work taking place.

Thanks to the efforts of many benefactors, numerous restoration projects are currently taking place with 12 restoration facilities working together. The most important project is the work on the Duomo’s Main Spire which supports the Madonnina (the statue of the Virgin Mary), and the four little spires surrounding it. Restoration is also under way for 129 other minor spires and various structures which cover the roof. There are other ongoing projects which must end on November 4th 2013, when the Duomo Museum will reopen and the VFB Archive will be refitted.

This is part of a complex challenge for everyone who is fond of fine arts, and there is a big goal to reach: to return the Duomo to Milan and the world just in time for the 2015 World Expo. Furthermore, this year is the 1700th anniversary of the signing of the Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine which ended the prosecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletianus and which awarded freedom of worship to all the religions in the Roman Empire.

In order to remember this important political and religious choice – which we should read today to fully understand its implications – throughout 2013, VFB will present a selection of cultural events including guided tours on the Duomo’s secrets; educational workshops for children; and much more. Throughout the summer, the “rEstate in Duomo” programme opens the Duomo’s famous roof terraces, allowing visitors to discover Milan from a unique point of view whilst enjoying marvellous sunsets painted by Heaven.

For further information visit:

Marcello Menni


The Duomo: Facts and figures

11.700 sq. meters: interior surface area

325.000 tons: weight of the cathedral

158,50 meters: length

440.000 cu. Meters: total volume

3.400 statues

200 low reliefs

more than 3.600 people depicted over the 55 stained glass windows

135 spires

5.000.000 annual visitors


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