The Milan Cathedral

The spectacular Gothic Milan cathedral took 600 years to build and it's an iconic landmark of the city. Its construction began in 1386 and was completed with all its final details in 1965.

TravelCurious Tip

On the Saturday closest to September 14, you can witness the display of the Holy Nail, one of the nails during Christ’s Crucifixion

The Milan Cathedral has been the heart of Milan and the seat of its Archbishop for centuries. The streets of Milan either radiate out from the cathedral or circle it, emphasising its star-like centrality in the city. A basilica was built on this site by Saint Ambrose in the 5th century, but construction of today’s cathedral only began in the 14th century after fires razed the previous buildings.

Built in a Gothic style more characteristic of France than Italy, it took 600 years to finish the cathedral. Even now there are some stone blocks yet to be carved, but the cathedral’s exterior still totes 2245 statues, 96 gargoyles and 135 spires. The cathedral recently underwent major renovations, completed in 2009, so it’s the perfect time to see it in all its glory.

Milan’s cathedral is the largest church in Italy, and the 5th largest in the world. At 157 metres long it can fit a staggering 40,000 people within it — many stadiums would envy such an audience. The facade onto the Piazza del Duomo, with its five bronze gates to welcome the crowd in, is the cathedral’s most distinctive: colossal, imposing, and almost flamboyantly gothic.

Queen of the Castle

The cathedral has a whole host of statues, but standing highest among them is the Madonnina, a copper statue of the virgin Mary that is covered in 3900 pieces of gold leaf. Placed on the highest spire of the cathedral at 108.5 metres, Madonnina marked the highest point in the city for almost two centuries, until 1959. Now outgrown, but never out-dazzled: under the sun, she is resplendent.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Milan
La Scala Theatre
La Scala Theatre (Teatro alla Scalla) is an iconic theatre built in 1778 which has consistently held the most famous opera and ballet performances in Milano.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world's oldest shopping malls and it's known locally as "Milan's drawing room".
Piazza Mercanti
Piazza Mercanti ("Merchant square") is the former epicentre of the city where swords, hats and suits of armour were once sold in the middle ages.
Duomo di Milano
The Duomo di Milano or the Milan Cathedral is an emblematic gothic Church that serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Milan.
Museo Poldi Pezzoli
Founded by Gian Poldi Pezzoli this art museum holds a wide variety of Italian and Northern European work.
Museo Bagatti Valsecchi
Originally the Bagatti brother's house, it contains Renaissance furnishings, tapestries and art works.

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