I have lived close to Milan for almost 30 years and I have never been on the spiers of the Duomo ... what a shame! So a few weeks ago I took the opportunity to accompany a Dutch friend there and to take this wonderful experience together.
The Duomo is literally at the centre of Milan. Looking at a map of Milan, you can see that city streets follow a spider web, radiating from the cathedral or circle it. The cathedral occupies a site that has been the most central location in the city since its founding. When searching for an address, it is always helpful to know where the Duomo is in relation to the street, the lower street addresses are always at the end closest to the Duomo.
Milan's Duomo is the third largest cathedral in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome and the Cathedral of Seville. It is 157 meters long and 40,000 people can fit comfortably within. Taking over 500 years to complete, today the Duomo is constantly being repaired and maintained. The Duomo is decorated with an amazing number of beautifully sculpted statues and spires. There are more statues on this building than any other in the world, 3159 in total. 2245 of these are on the exterior together with 96 gargoyles and 135 spires. It is said that if the statues were placed on top of each other, they would reach a height of about 5300 meters. The most famous of all these is the Madonnina (Little Madonna), a copper statue of the virgin Mary covered with 3900 pieces of gold leaf. It was cast in 1774 by goldsmith Giuseppe Bini and sculptor Giuseppe Perego. The statue, four meters and sixteen centimeters tall (almost 14 ft), was placed on top of the cathedral's tallest spire and until 1959 marked the highest point in the city at 108.5 meters.
However, all the extras of the Duomo are very interesting: the roof; the treasury; and the excavations of the Early Christian baptistery. The roof climb provides a unique and memorable opportunity to walk high on the roofs of the huge Gothic cathedral. Visitors can pay a small fee to take a fascinating trip to the Duomo's roof via steps or elevator. The views are magnificent and the opportunity to see the pinnacles and sculptures close up along the way is worth the climb alone. On a clear day you can see as far as the Alps and Apennines. The roof is quite safe and should pose no problems even for those afraid of heights. The crypt is entered from inside the cathedral near the choir. Entrance to the crypt is free and many visitors descend the short stairway to visit the tomb of Cardinal Borromeo. Also in the crypt is the Tesoro del Duomo, or Cathedral Treasury. If you have any interest in medieval art, religious art, or "old stuff" in general, this is a must-see.
Pay attention to the clothes you're wearing! You have to have something to cover up your shoulders, because you're not allowed in the cathedral with them uncovered. Women, you can't wear a dress or skirt if you want to climb on the terrace. Men cannot wear shorts and there are no hats allowed.
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