Duomo di Milano — Cathedral of Milan

Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano

Why doesn’t the Duomo di Milano (Cathedral of Milan) have another name? In Florence, the building commonly referred to as “The Duomo” is formally called Santa Maria del Fiore. But in Milan the main cathedral is just the Duomo di Milano or, in English, Cathedral of Milan.

Maybe it’s just my marketing background nagging at me, but that offends me. It would be like Kimberly-Clark branding and trademarking “Facial Tissues™” rather than Kleenex. Then again, people call all brands of facial tissues Kleenex even if they aren’t Kleenex, so maybe that’s not a good comparison.

The Milan Cathedral has a slick web site. So it’s not as if marketing is totally foreign to the people running it. I don’t get it.

Never mind. This is supposed to be a vaguely travel-related blog, not a marketing one. Let’s move on.

If I was allowed only one word to describe the Duomo di Milano it would be “big.” However, that’s only because polysyllabic words hurt my Flesch Reading Score. Otherwise, I would have used a word like “gargantuan.” Curse the near-illiterates of the world who skew the Flesch Reading Scores.

Cathedral swallows people up
Cathedral swallows people up

If I were allowed two words they would be “very big.” Maybe I should stop catering to literacy-challenged readers. If I used the word gargantuan I could then use something like “overpowering,” “inspiring” or “beautiful” as my second word.

Fortunately, no one has placed any word limits on me. That was merely an inane, insipid literary device that I used as a feeble attempt to get across how immense the place is. Then again, I’m not very literary or lyrical, so don’t get your hopes up for the rest of this post.

Duomo di Milano: Three-Dimensionally Enormous

The Duomo is large in all three spatial dimensions. Its volume swallows you up. Not literally, of course. That was a metaphor. Stick with me on this. We’ll get through it.

The pictures on this page don’t do an adequate job of depicting just how large the cathedral is. For that, you’d need a wide-angle lens, which my camera, i.e., my iPhone, doesn’t have. Either that or you’d have to be far better at taking panorama shots with your iPhone than I am.

Take a look at the picture of the interior of the cathedral that appears on this page. Now, look at how small the few people in the picture look relative to the building. Now, imagine a cathedral that feels about three times as large as the picture makes it look. If you can successfully form that image in your mind eye you’ll probably have a good sense of the feel of a cathedral half the size of the Duomo di Milano.

A few of the stained glass windows
A few of the stained glass windows

The enormity of the church raises a question in my mind. According to myth, legend and religion, churches are supposed to be houses of god. You’d think he, she or it could make do with a smaller space, what with being intangible and all. And, it’s not as if the Milan Cathedral is god’s only house. He, she or it has thousands of them scattered around the world.

But, never mind that. Let’s move.

The cathedral is beautiful. Throughout, there are lavish stained glass windows, sculptures, paintings and beautiful floral-patterned floors.

If you visit the Duomo and do nothing more than stand in the main part of the cathedral, I’m convinced you’ll be exceptionally impressed. You may even have some awe inspired in you. Then again, I don’t know you. You may hate it. Life’s like that. Personal taste is such an idiosyncratic thing.

And before we get carried away with all of this talk of inspiring awe, I should point out that, despite considering the church to be an awesome edifice, I’m still an atheist.

The Scurolo


Down some stairs from the main hall there is a small scurolo. Entrance to it was included in my ticket to the Duomo.

(That brings up a point I should have mentioned earlier. There was a charge to go into the Doumo when I was there. I was told that it used to be free, but because there was a World’s Fair on in Milan at the time they started charging admission. It appears that they didn’t want to waste the opportunity to soak the tourists who came for the World’s Fair.

Note to cities, such as my own, considering staging Word’s Fairs: I would have spent more time and money in Milan had there not been a World’s Fair on . I didn’t want to have to deal with the larger-than-normal crowds. So, despite flying into and out of Milan on a trip to northern Italy, I spent less than a day in that city.)

Back to the scurolo. I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re probably thinking, “what the hell is a scurolo?” Damned if I know. That’s just what the sign told me it was.

A quick Google search for “scurolo” didn’t answer that question for me. And Google Translate told me that the English translation of the Italian word “scurolo” is “scurolo.” Well, that was helpful, wasn’t it?

Because I’m a such an insufferably slothful sluggard who suffers from severe Curiosity Deficit Disorder (CDD), I didn’t try to research it beyond quick Google and Google Translate searches. If you know what scurolo means, or if you are interested and ambitious enough to do the work required to find out, please inform the rest of us in a comment below.

Maybe a scurolo is a place to hold reliquaries, because this one did. The reliquary in the scurolo contains the remains of San Carlo Borromeo (Saint Charles Borromeo).

Carlo Borromeo lived from 1538 to 1584. He was appointed archbishop of Milan in 1564.Pope Paul V canonized him in 1610. When I visited the Duomo di Milano in 2015 his bones were decaying in a reliquary in the finished basement of the cathedral. Four hundred or so years after my death my bones or ashes will undoubtedly be lying somewhere less esteemed, but Saint Charles and I will be otherwise equal then. Just saying.

The View Below

Archaeological area
Archaeological area

At some point, I’m not sure when, archeologists dug under a portion of the Duomo. Much of that area is now open to the public and the entrance is included in the ticket to the Duomo. I went down because, what the hell, I’d already paid for it and children are starving in sub-Saharan Africa. Admittedly, that’s no better reasoning than mothers telling their children they should eat everything on their plates whether they are full or not for the same reason. (Mothers were notorious for saying things like that when I was a child.) But, in tribute to the memory of my mother, I’ll leave it there.

I’m glad I went down to the archaeological area, and not just for the sense of then having gotten my money’s worth out of the Duomo ticket. The space contains some of the old building foundations, building materials from before the time of the current Duomo, tombs, sewer works and other artifacts. The exhibits date from the fourth century through to the time the current Duomo was built over top them.

A View From Above

Terraces cover much of the roof of the Duomo. You have to pay an extra fee to be allowed to walk up the stairs to get to them. I did.

For only four Euros more I could have ridden up in an elevator. Being a cheap bastard, I took the stairs. On reflection, that was probably faulty logic. I paid what, for me, was a lot of money to fly to Europe and stay in, not luxury, but certainly not fleabag hotels. Yet I wasn’t willing to pay four Euros extra to ride an elevator. Yeah, I know. I’ve got to work on my reasoning abilities.

A few of the rooftop pointy bits
A few of the rooftop pointy bits

“The exercise will do you good,” was my rationale. Don’t let anyone kid you about that. There’s a point beyond which exercise will kill you. As this post proves, that wasn’t the result in this case. But, hey, you never know. It could happen.

OK. Whine over.

After I exited what I thought was the top of the stairs, I entered onto a narrow terrace that was about a floor or so below the top. This almost-at-the-top terrace runs along one side of the Doumo.

At the end of that terrace, I came to another set of stairs that took me to top.

In total, climbing all of those stairs was a lot of effort, but it afforded me a great a view of the many pointy bits topping the church. Oh, and it also gave me a great view of the city.

The view made it well worthwhile. Of course, had the climb indeed killed me I would have said something very different here about the worthwhileness of the view. In that case, I would have said: “.”

Been there? Done that? Do tell.