Friday, December 20, 2013

Milan, Italy: The Duomo

I will admit that, when we planned this trip out, Milan was the place we were least interested in visiting. We wanted to experience Italy, not another big city. We were in for a BIG treat! In fact, there were so many wonderful parts of Milan, that we got to go see that they all won't fit in one blog...not even two blogs! It will take 3 installments to cover Milan! And, when we finally left, I had a feeling that all we did see was simply the tip of the iceberg. I definitely want to go back! (remember to click on the photographs to see the larger versions!)
 Of course I had read about "The Duomo of Milan" (Duomo is Italian for Cathedral) in our brochure but I truly had NO IDEA that it looked like this. Our first glance of this wonder of architecture was from the bus on our way through the city to our hotel. 
 We took the subway system downtown the first day so we could walk around and see the Galleria. Our real tour was the next day so this was getting a jump on it as something to do. I wasn't thrilled with the subway since I'm mildly claustrophobic. It was packed and then it broke down for 10 minutes. It wasn't fun. But, as are all forms of transportation, it was necessary and I was on my way to see the Duomo and that was all that mattered. What I didn't know was that the Galleria is as amazing as the Duomo! We walked past the Opera House (sadly closed so we couldn't see inside) and past the Leonardo DaVinci statue to enter the Galleria.
 The Galleria was built to be a beautiful shopping area for the upper class in Milan in the mid 1800's. Closed in by a beautiful glass ceiling, the wealthy could meet here to shop and eat and spend a leisurely afternoon. While also crowded by tourists now, the Galleria is still upscale and designed for the rich. Prada, Gucci, Chanel...all of the upscale brands of the world are here.
 In the center of the "street" there is a mosaic of a bull. Legend says that if you stomp on the bulls testicles you will bring yourself good luck. This has been done so many times that there is now a hole there instead. While others were trying to get their turn at the bull I looked UP instead. The ceiling is magnificent!
 Each section of the ceiling has beautiful artwork below the glass and below the artwork are apartments that are still owned by the wealthy shop owners.
To give you an idea of the scale of this place, these statues that adorn the front of the apartments are human size. So look back a the previous photograph and you will get an idea of just how big this place is!
 Along the street where all of these upscale shops are, across from the Duomo, are square donut shaped blocks. The outside of the "donut" are the shops but the inside are beautiful courtyards to the homes of the shop owners. Beautiful!
 As we were walking it began to rain. Now the shops are protected from covered walk ways so we were in no danger of getting truly wet. Most of our group was upset but I was thrilled. I love the way the Duomo looks in the rain. It was a brief shower and we were back to exploring but our day was fairly over and it was time to get back on the subway to our hotel.
 The next day we started out for the Duomo again, this time by tour bus since we had two other stops to make on our tour of Milan. As you travel through Milan you see many different types of architecture due to the different styles that were popular to those who ruled at that time. A lot of what we saw had a French influence from when Napoleon was in power.
 The Duomo is stunning. It took six centuries...yes, centuries, to complete and is the 4th largest Cathedral in the world. It is my favorite type of architecture. It's Architecture As Art. 
 The highly ornate outside of this Cathedral could keep you occupied for days just trying to see everything there is to see.
 Of course the busy ornate details immediately distract the eye from the background beauty of this structure. The use of Candoglia marble was a controversial decision that started a movement of it's own in the architectural world. But the shades of cream, grey and peach are one of the reasons this church is so stunningly beautiful.
 One of the things I love about Italy is that, as buildings age, they replace broken or damaged pieces with pieces crafted to look the same so that the repairs are almost unnoticeable.
 With one hundred and thirty five spires and pinnacles the Duomo is a masterpiece of design and beauty.
 With over 1800 statues there is plenty to explore on the outside. And the statues range from beautiful to horrific. One of them depicted a saint that had been disemboweled! Yes, horrific! But I adore the gargoyles! During our brief rain the day before I kept hoping it would rain hard enough so we could see the gargoyles in action but we just didn't get enough rain to be able to see it come pouring out of the gargoyle mouths.
 Everywhere you look there are details upon details. The scale of this building is hard to take in as well. The photo above is from the ground and only a small part of the side of one part of the building. The photo above that shows the statue to the far right in this photo as a close up. Yes, this building is massive! 
 St. Michael is my favorite that I was able to spy. There is something so "here I come to save the day" about him. Romantic and noble. 
 Because this was made over so many centuries there are statues that represent every era. Including the Knights of the age.
 In each spire are even more statues! There are "cubbies" in each section of the spires and statues in each of those sections. Amazing!
 I love this photograph because my first impression of the Duomo was that it looked like lace made of marble. Starting with the balcony above the window to the details on the window to the lines of gargoyles and statues all the way down to the lace-like details on the bottom of the columns, this looks like marble lace to me. Just beautiful!
 The inside is beautiful as well. With beautiful stained glass and ornate iron work there is plenty to see inside the Cathedral. One of the details I learned long after we left Milan, and another reason to return for me, is that there is a way up to the roof of the Duomo where you can see some of the spires up close and have a beautiful view of the Galleria and surrounding neighborhood. Believe me, knowing that I missed that opportunity, as a photographer, leaves me just gutted. Something I added to my bucket list immediately.
But the Duomo is a sight that you can not let go unseen if you have any reason to be in Milan. Take your time. We were there for several hours and I still didn't get to see it all. It really is just stunning in it's beauty!

Next week is Christmas but the following week we'll continue our tour of Milan. Hope you can come back then to join us!


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