Construction of Milan’s Cathedral began in 1385 and didn’t end until January 6, 1965 when the last gate was inaugurated. The facade alone took 238 years to complete, started in 1567 it was completed in 1805, just in time for Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as King of Italy.
Built of Candoglia marble from a quarry used exclusively for construction of the Duomo for over 600 years, the tallest spire on this astonishingly beautiful Gothic building soars 356 feet and was topped in 1774 with the Madonnina statue, the symbol of Milan. The Cathedral contains more then 3,400 statues.
Mark Twain recorded his impressions of Duomo di Milano in Innocents Abroad:
Howsoever you look at the great cathedral, it is noble, it is beautiful! Wherever you stand in Milan or within seven miles of Milan, it is visible and when it is visible, no other object can chain your whole attention. Leave your eyes unfettered by your will but a single instant and they will surely turn to seek it. It is the first thing you look for when you rise in the morning, and the last your lingering gaze rests upon at night. Surely it must be the princeliest creation that ever brain of man conceived.
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They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands.
We bid it good-bye, now—possibly for all time. How surely, in some future day, when the memory of it shall have lost its vividness, shall we half believe we have seen it in a wonderful dream, but never with waking eyes!