What’s so special about Milan Cathedral?The Duomo of Milan is the largest church in Italy (because St Peter’s Basilica is in Vatican City, not Italy), and the 4th largest church in the world! It can accommodate 40,000 people at once, has over 3000 statues inside and on its facades and spires, and took over 600 years to complete. The majority of the Duomo was completed in time for Napoleon’s coronation as King of Italy (after he promised that France would pay for the work), but the final gate was inaugurated in 1965, nearly 600 years after construction began in 1386!
What should I look out for?There’s plenty to feast your eyes on, both inside and outside of the Duomo. Inside, look out for the statue of St Bartholomew, one of the Twelve Apostles, who is depicted wearing his own skin after being martyred. The Duomo also contains a working sundial, decorated with the 12 signs of the zodiac. It also contains a hidden relic, one of the nails from Christ’s cross, which is suspended in its own tabernacle and brought out for veneration annually at the Rite of the Nivola. If you’re visiting Milan at the time then you need to reserve tickets if you want to attend. On the outside of the cathedral, you should look out for a statue of Napoleon, added in gratitude for his help finishing the cathedral. And you might also be able to spot the alleged inspiration for the Statue of Liberty on the balcony above the entrance - she’s wearing the familiar crown and brandishing a torch, but while the Statue of Liberty carries a book, the statue on the Duomo is carrying a cross.
How many stairs are there to the roof?There are 919 stairs to the roof of the Duomo, some of which are quite a tight spiral with lower roofs. People who suffer from claustrophobia may prefer to use the elevator as it’s much faster!
How long should I spend at the Duomo?A guided tour of the Duomo takes about 90 minutes, but you can explore as long as you like afterward. If churches aren’t your particular passion, 2 hours to explore the main building and wait in the lines for the roof should be plenty. If you’re into religious history and architecture then you can easily spend upwards of 4 hours exploring the entire complex, including the crypt and archaeological areas.
Can I take photographs?Photography for personal use is allowed throughout the Duomo and the archaeological sites. Please note that photography is not permitted during religious services or concerts. Permits for commercial photography or filming must be obtained from the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo (the institution responsible for the cathedral’s buildings) before your visit.