Through the spires a tour of Milan's Duomo

The construction of the Duomo of Milan was started in 1386, but it was finally terminated with the façade only in 1813. It is a large church in late gothic style and the construction material is marble of Candoglia, a pink/grey marble that comes only from a cave in the north-west of Italy. It appears as a unique structure covered with pinnacles, buttresses, flying buttresses, spires, gargoyles and statues, hundreds of them. At the top of the highest pinnacle, 108 meters above the ground, is a golden statue of the virgin Mary more than four meters tall, which dominates the city and has become its symbol. There are now taller buildings in town, but on the top of the tallest one there is always a replica of this statue, so that it is always at the top.

It is clearly an interesting object for photography, for which I opted a b/w only option. Without entering the church, which entails a long queue and probably tripod restrictions, one can circle it from the outside and walk on top of the main nave, which offers a great opportunity to observe the statues and other structures. When I was a small child, my grandfather brought me to the balcony just below the top statue, but that access is closed since long (it was the preferred spot for suicides in Milan).

First a tour outside the church. There is always a section which is under restoration, as the marble needs to be replaced every few dozen years, but right now most of it is accessible.

Some detail of the façade
The main gate is huge and full of details
Even the side of the cathedral is imposing

Amongst the innumerable statues you can find

Little angels holding books and shields
People attempting daring yoga positions

Looking even more upwards it's all statues on spires and gargoyles.

So many of them.

A scary figure jumps into the light

A naked figure looks into the sunset

And someone is definitely scared

Time to go up. Unless you want to take the elevator, there is a convenient narrow spiral staircase that leads you to the next level, where you emerge out of breath and with a regret of not having taken the elevator. The elevator starts at the beginning of the left arm of the cross-shaped church and leads you up to a walking path along the side, leading to the front.

To pass each buttress you have to go through an opening, where you are observed by watchful eyes
Figures everywhere

Carrying giant chess pieces

Spreading wings

Coming out of niches

A merry quartet
Details from the merry quartet

If you place yourself in the right place, resisting the incessant flow of tourists, you can find a good perspective for the rows of flying buttresses

Finally on the top of the main nave. Even more statues attract attention

With the moon
With the sun
With the Velasca tower, a uniquely-shaped tall building that has become one of the landmarks in the skyline of Milan since its construction in 1957.
Statues in pairs
Statues in rows
All the way up to the very symbol of the city

From there you can look down

But you can also look into the distance. Too bad the föhn was not blowing, the view of the mountains is awesome from here

We are approaching the end. Just some time for slightly different photos

Repeating structures
More complex structures
Small figures loom in the sunset as the wardens push you unceremoniously towards the stairs to close the show for the day.

... and your are out, not before having stolen one last photo while being pushed, aiming at the sky


All photos by T.M. Belloni (

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