At over 100,000 square feet, the Duomo in Milan is the fifth largest Christian church in the world. And of those which boast a larger surface area (including Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica and New York’s St. John the Divine), it is easily the oldest.
Construction on this stunning building actually began in the 14th Century, with the completed nave finally consecrated in 1418. But this was not the end of the story, as the whole structure was not actually completed until 1965, when a final gate was hung!
The long construction time (more than 600 years) is something of a joke in Milan, with a local saying for a seemingly endless project referring to it as a ‘Duomo of Milan’.
But when you stand in the famous Piazza del Duomo and look at the stunning gothic detailing, you’ll understand why it took so long, and why visitors and Milanese alike believe it was well worth the wait.
Key Elements Not to Miss
- The Statues
The Duomo in Milan has a breath-taking 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and nearly a thousand figures decorating its interior and exterior. One of the most famous is the bronze-gilded Madonna – known locally as the Madonnina – which adorns the cathedral’s highest spire. The best way to see the Madonnina and the other rooftop statues (and stunning views out across the city) is to take the stairs or lift up to the cathedral terrazzo, or rooftop terrace.
- A Nail from Jesus’ Crucifixion
Although this is not on display for most of the year, it is kept above the arched section of the altar and a red lightbulb has been placed there to mark the spot for visitors. If you are lucky enough to be visiting on the Saturday closest to September 14, you will be able to see the archbishop take down the nail, which is then put on display until the following Monday.
- The Sundial
Many of the clocks in Milan are still set to the time displayed by the 18th-century sundial near the main entrance. On the summer and winter solstice a shaft of light from a hole on the opposite wall shines onto the bronze dial and gives an accurate time for the city.
Getting in to the Duomo in Milan
The front doors to the cathedral are located on the Piazza del Duomo, next to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and entrance is free.
At peak tourist times queues can build up here as the police check that visitors are wearing appropriate clothing (knees and shoulders must be covered). A good trick is to walk around the side of the building where there are other, smaller entrances which tend to be less busy.
How to Get There
There are regular flights from the UK to Milan’s Malpensa Airport with a good range of premium and budget airlines. The flight time is around two hours and 15 minutes (from London).
One of the fastest and most convenient ways of getting from the airport to your accommodation in Milan is to book an airport transfer with us at Shuttle Direct. Book your private car transfer online before you leave home and one of our drivers will be waiting for you in the arrivals lounge when you touch down.
See you there?
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you’re planning a trip to visit the Duomo in Milan Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you and your luggage get to and from the airport swiftly and safely.