The cathedral (duomo) is without a doubt the most majestic, iconic building in Milan. No visit to Milan is complete without visiting this historic site. It’s beauty, size and history is unmatched. Located in the heart of Milan, it is the gathering place of the city. Rallies, concerts and protests take place in the Piazza Duomo in the shadow of the Duomo. The cathedral was built in the spot where a paleo-Christian churches and baptistery once stood. Mighty men and worshipers have gathered in the same place for over 1,600 years. If you’re planning a visit to Milan here are five things you should know before visiting the Duomo:
No. 1 – THE DUOMO OF MILAN IS ONE OF THE LARGEST CATHEDRALS IN THE WORLD.
The Duomo of Milan is technically the largest church in Italy (St. Peters in Rome is in Vatican City). It is the third largest church in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. It measures 515 ft (157 meters) long and 302 ft (92 m) wide. It can house up to 40,000 people!
No. 2 – YOU CAN VISIT THE ROOF!
You can visit the rooftop of the cathedral by either climbing the access stairs or, if you’re willing to spend a few more euros, by elevator. The views from the rooftop are magnificent. Not only do you get a spectacular city view, you get a close up view of the church’s giant gothic spires and flying buttresses. If you’d like to skip the lines, there’s also the “Fast Pass” option which allows you to skip the long elevator line and take a separate elevator. You can buy your tickets at the the duomo ticket office located directly across from the church and next to the Museo del Duomo by either waiting in line or by using the self service kiosk. If you want to skip the ticket lines altogether, you purchase tickets by visiting https://www.duomomilano.it/en/buy-tickets/.
No. 3 – THE DUOMO TOOK NEARLY 600 YEARS TO COMPLETE.
Made of marble quarried from mines along Lake Maggiore which was ferried into the city using canals, the Duomo is a towering example of gothic design. Started in 1386 and completed in 1965 it’s construction history was long and complicated. Construction began in 1386 initiated by Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo. In 1500 Ludivico Sfzora finished the octogonal coppola and decorated the inside but the exterior remained undecorated for hundreds of years. Construction continued over the years and in the early 1800’s as Napoleon was about to be crowned King of Italy, he ordered the facade of the Duomo to be completed. Napoleon was crowned King of Italy in Duomo on May 26, 1805 but the cathedral still needed work. Finally, in 1965 the details were completed.
No. 4 – DON’T MISS THE ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA
Did you know the duomo was built over a fourth century church complex which included two churches and a baptistery? You can still visit the spot where on Easter morning April 24, 387 St. Ambrose baptized an illustrious new convert, St. Augustine. The remains of the baptistery and churches are still visible and are located in the archeological area under the church. The entrance to the archeological area is by the church front entrance.
No. 5 – THERE’S A DRESS CODE.
If you’re visiting the Duomo in summertime, you want to make sure that you’re properly dressed. Throughout Italy, entering a church in shorts, mini skirt, tank tops or strapless shirts/dresses is generally frowned upon. It’s best to be respectful and take into consideration that it is a place of worship. If you’re not properly dressed, the security team will let you know and you will have two options; go back to your hotel and change, or buy a cheap wrap from the vendors in Piazza Duomo who are ever ready to make a profit off unprepared visitors to the Duomo.