12 fun facts about Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral
Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral (In Italian: Duomo di Milano, literally means Cathedral of Milan) is a church building in Milan, Italy. The church serves as cathedral of Archdiocese of Milan, which is the Europe's largest diocese, it is also the largest church in Italy(exclude of Vatican), and 3rd largest in the world.
Milan Cathedral is the most visited tourist attraction in Milan, visitors can access to both interior of the building and the viewing platform on its rooftop.

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Below are some interesting facts about the Milan Cathedral.

1. Milan cathedral is a miracle in the history of architecture and construction, it took nearly six centuries to complete. The construction of the church began in 1386, and was officially completed in 1965 when the last bronze door was installed, though most parts of the building had been completed in 1813.

A painting shows Milan Cathedral in history
A painting shows Milan Cathedral in history

The building reached its full height in as early as 1774 after the gold sculpture of Madonna (Virgin Mary) installed on the central spire. The church had been put into use long before its completion, when the building started taking shape in 1570s. Milan Cathedral has been the icon of Milan for centuries.

2. Milan Cathedral is located in the very central point of the city of Milan, the layout of city is based on the cathedral, streets are built radiating or circling it.

Panorama view of Milan seen from the sky
Panorama view of Milan seen from the sky

3. Milan Cathedral is 158 meters long and 92 meters wide, its height is 108.5 meters or 356 ft, which is measured to the highest spire on the building. The church is based on a Latin cross form that covers 11700 square meters and can accommodate about 35000 people.

Aerial view of Milan Cathedral
Aerial view of Milan Cathedral

4. The building features a variety of architectural styles, as architects from many different countries like Germany, France, Italy successively participated in the design of the church. The church was initially designed in a Gothic style, then many other architectural styles were gradually blended into the design of the church as the construction took several centuries, the included styles are Neo Classic, Baroque, and Decorative Gothic, which is the main style, the featuring of the numerous spires on the roof of building is a representative element of Gothic style.

5. The church has five naves, a central nave and two lateral on each side, resting on 40 columns, each column is 24.50 meters (80 feet) high.

The highest part of the nave is about 45 meters (147 feet) high from the ground, it's the highest nave in a complete church, even the nave of 157-meter Cologne Cathedral (one of the tallest churches in the world) is only 43 meters high.

The height of Milan Cathedral's nave is only second to the 48-meter (157 feet) high nave of Beauvais Cathedral, a church in France that is never completed since the construction halted in 1600.

6. Milan Cathedral has a large number of spires upon its roof, 135 in total, more than any other churches in the world, each spire is topped off by a sculpture of a biblical figure.

The spires on the roof of Milan Cathedral
The spires on the roof of Milan Cathedral
The sculptures atop the spires of Milan Cathedral
The sculptures atop the spires of Milan Cathedral

The highest spire is topped off by a golden statue of Madonna(Virgin Mary), at a height of 108.5 meters (356 feet) off the ground, which is the highest point of the church, the statue itself is 4.2 meters (13.6 feet) tall.


Aside from the spires, the exterior of the church is decorated by a large amount of sculpted statues, there are 2245 statues sculpted on the facades of the church.

The building has a total of 6000 sculptures with ones in the interior counted, making Milan Cathedral the church that has largest number of sculptures.

7. The roof of Milan Cathedral is open to tourists for a small fee. Access to the roof is made through 6 stone stairways and two elevators. 33 stone bridges are crisscrossed on two sides of the roof, connecting the sections of the roof.

Standing or walking on the roof, visitors can see the details of the sculptures on the spires among the spire forest, which is comprised of 135 spires, and can enjoy the panorama view of the whole city of Milan, on some clear days, the distant Alps can also be seen from there.

The observatory on the roof of Milan Cathedral
The observatory on the roof of Milan Cathedral

8. The entrance of the cathedral is on the front side, which faces the cathedral square. There are five bronze doors at the front side of the church. These bronze doors are made between 1896 and 1965, each of them has many patterns carved on, depicting the stories in Bible and the history of the church. The door in the middle is the largest among all five bronze doors, it weighs 37 tons, and depicts the life of Virgin Mary.


9. The interior of the church features a collection of artworks, the most famous one of them being a statue of Saint Bartholomew, one of Twelve Apostles of Jesus, he was skinned alive to death for spreading his faith, the statue shows a creepy scene in which Bartholomew is holding the flayed skin on his shoulders.

10. The church houses many large windows with stained glass, the three of these stained glass windows in the apse of the Cathedral are the highest in the world.

11. Milan Cathedral stores a nail from the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, there were 3 nails used to nail the hands and feet of Jesus(His feet were nailed by only one nail, as there was a nail stolen by a Gypsy), the nail stored in the Cathedral is reputedly one of these 3 nails, the holy nail is placed at a spot in the dome above the apse, marked by a small red light bulb.

Every year the holy nail is retrieved and exposed to the public for three days during a celebration known as the Rite of the Nivola. Retrieving the nail was initially done by climbing a lift, in 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci found it's a hassle to climb the ladder, which inspired him to invent lift, since then retrieving of holy nail has been achieved by lifting a boat-like lift.

12. Many important events have taken place in Milan Cathedral. In 313, the famous Edict of Milan was issued from here, legalizing Christianity and making it the state religion of the Roman Empire. Leonardo da Vinci invented the first lift in Milan Cathedral.
In 1805, the coronation of Napoleon was held in Milan Cathedral.

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