5 Must Know Duomo di Milano Facts

The Milan Cathedral is one of the most breathtaking architectural marvels in the world, located in the heart of Milan, Italy. 

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or curious about notable landmarks, the Milan Cathedral will captivate your imagination.

Here are some interesting facts about Duomo di Milano to unravel the mysteries:


#1 Towering Magnificence: The Fifth-Largest Christian Church

The cathedral covers an area of about 109,641 square feet (10,186 square meters) and can accommodate around 40,000 people. 

It is 515 feet (157 meters) long, 302 feet (92 meters) wide, and its tallest spire reaches a height of 354 feet (108 meters). 

With those staggering dimensions, Duomo di Milano is easily one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world. 

It took over 600 years to complete, with construction starting in 1386 and officially ending in 1965.

#2 Sculpted Splendor: A Multitude of Statues

The cathedral’s exterior is adorned with numerous statues, gargoyles, and intricate stone carvings. 

It features 3,400 statues, including 135 gargoyles and 700 figures on the marble facade.

It has statues of saints and historical Christian figures that bring history to life.

You must, 100%, visit the most revered figure inside the cathedral- Madonnina, the iconic golden representation of Mary.

Visitors can climb to the rooftop of Milan Cathedral to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city. 

The rooftop is adorned with spires, statues, and elaborate decorations, offering a close-up view of the cathedral’s famous Gothic architecture.

And of the snowy peaks of the Alps add a touch of natural grandeur.

It has an astonishing array of 3,400 sculptures, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures.

#3 Time in the Shadows: Set Your Watch by its Sundial

One fascinating fact about the Duomo di Milano is its sundial. 

The sundial allows visitors to set their watches by its time. This sundial, fondly called the Meridiana, is located on the cathedral’s floor inside the building.

The Meridiana consists of a thin brass strip embedded in the marble floor, which runs north-south. 

The strip is marked with lines and numbers indicating the hours of the day. 

As sunlight enters the cathedral through a small hole in the stained glass window above, it casts a beam of light onto the strip.

Visitors can determine the exact time of day by observing where the beam of light falls on the strip. 

This sundial is an accurate timekeeping device, and you mustn’t leave Milan without visiting it!

#4 Illuminated Mystery: The Little Red Bulb Revealed

An illuminated red light bulb marking the spot is believed to hold one of the nails used in Jesus’ crucifixion.

Every year, on the closest Saturday to September 14, the archbishop of Milan undertakes a solemn ascent to the altar’s peak.

Dating back to 1577, the basket holds a rich history.

However, the true purpose of this little red light was revealed in 2012.

This small red light, known as the “Pilgrim’s Light” or “Lanterna del Micio” in Italian, is located at the highest point of the cathedral.

The origin and purpose of the little red bulb were shrouded in mystery for a long time. 

The red bulb serves as a marker for pilots and air traffic controllers, helping to indicate the height restrictions for aircraft flying over the city.

#5 Centuries in the Making: A Masterpiece Evolving

The cathedral began in 1386 when Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo laid the first stone. 

The initial plan was to build a cathedral surpassing the beauty of any other in Europe.

The cathedral’s design transitioned from the Gothic style of the late Middle Ages to incorporate elements of the Renaissance and later Baroque styles.

Due to various challenges, including funding issues, wars, and changes in architectural trends, the construction of Milan Cathedral took time. 

During the French occupation of Milan in the late 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the cathedral’s facade to be completed. 

The elaborate facade, featuring hundreds of statues and intricate details, was finally completed in the 19th century.

Despite the completion of its primary construction, ongoing restoration and preservation efforts are ongoing!

For all visitors planning to visit Duomo di Milano, here are some essential information to plan your trip: 


1. How does Milan Cathedral compare to other iconic structures in the world?

Milan Cathedral ranks among the world’s largest Gothic churches.

It holds a prominent position alongside iconic structures like:

The Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil,
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York,
The Cathedral of Seville.

2. What makes the sculptures of Milan Cathedral unique?

Milan Cathedral has 3,400 sculptures, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures.

This makes it the cathedral with the most extensive art collection in the world.

3. Can visitors access the rooftop of Milan Cathedral?

Yes, visitors can take the stairs or lift to the Milan Cathedral rooftop.

On clear days, you can admire the architecture and enjoy panoramic city views and the majestic Alps.

4. What fascinating features are present at the main entrance of Milan Cathedral?

At the main entrance, visitors will discover a sundial embedded in the floor, marking the passage of time.

Along with it, a purposeful hole that aligns with sunlight to create a spectacle on specific dates.

5. What is the significance of the illuminated red light bulb inside Milan Cathedral?

The illuminated red light bulb marks the spot believed to hold one of the nails used in Jesus’ crucifixion.

It represents an essential symbol of reverence, and authorities display it during specific times of the year.

But, the bulb also served as a marker for flying height restrictions over the city for pilots and air-traffic controllers.

6. How long did it take to construct Milan Cathedral?

The construction of Milan Cathedral began in 1386.

It extended over several centuries.

It involved the efforts of thousands of artists, sculptors, and professionals.

The project evolved as a masterpiece of enduring dedication.

7. Which materials did the construction of Milan Cathedral involve?

The primary material used in the construction of Milan Cathedral is the prestigious Cando glia Marble from Lake Maggiore.

This gives the cathedral its elegant pink-hued white marble appearance.
Can visitors witness any significant events or ceremonies at Milan Cathedral?
Visitors can plan their visit to witness the archbishop of Milan’s annual ascent to the altar’s peak.

They retrieve the revered nail believed to be from Jesus’ crucifixion.

The Best Duomo di Milano Tickets

Cathedral and Rooftop tickets: This ticket offers access to the Milan Cathedral and the Cathedral Rooftop area. 

Milan Cathedral Rooftop ticket: If you wish to enjoy the vistas of Milan, then get this rooftop access ticket (without the church) to enjoy terrace entry. 

Duomo di Milano guided tour: Take a tour of Milan Cathedral, Duomo Museum and archeological sites with a local expert guide. 

Private Duomo di Milano tour: Skip the crowds and take a private tour of the Duomo di Milano, its Rooftop, Museum and Archeological sites.

Duomo Di Milano Combo tour: Visit the Milan Cathedral and another Milan attraction at a discounted price with just one ticket. 

Last-minute Duomo di Milano tickets: Get your Milan Cathedral tickets last minute if you have missed your pre-booking. This ticket offers last-minute entry to Cathedral, Museum and rooftop. 

Milan City Pass: Get entry to Duomo di Milano, Rooftops, Duomo Museum, Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, along with Milan City Audio Guide at discounted prices. 

Featured Image: Walksofitaly.com

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