- 15 Aug
The Main Spire of the Duomo was built between 1765 and 1769. The architect Francesco Croce settled more than a century of projects and proposals, thus crowning the crossing of the lantern in the best possible way. In 1774, then, the 4.16-metre statue of the Virgin Mary was added. With this Spire, the Duomo reached the dizzying height of 108.50 metres, and in Milan it became a custom that no building could be taller than the Madonnina. This rule meant that the plans for the Branca and Velasca towers had to be changed, and when the Pirelli skyscraper was built, at a height of 127 metres, a copy of the statue of the Virgin Mary was placed on top of it. This copy of the statue has now been moved to Palazzo Lombardia, 161 metres high. The Main Spire culminates the centuries-old project of the Duomo, raising to heaven thousands of hands, efforts, ideas, projects, documents, passions, sacrifices that have made this masterpiece of Italian Gothic architecture possible. The Virgin Mary, placed on the top, asks the Heaven to bless the city. The Madonnina stands on a boundary, that dividing heaven from earth: it is between God and mankind, permitting a contact that would otherwise be impossible. The Duomo itself, in its whole composition, seems to intend to be much more than a cathedral. It strives to be not only a summary of the whole history of Milan, but also a collection of all humanity, with over 3,200 statues populating every façade of the cathedral. The Virgin Mary, who rises from a forest of one hundred and thirty four spires, is carried in triumph as if in a procession of personages, real or mythical, martyrs, saints, warriors, animals and monsters. There is truth and legend on Milan's Duomo: what mankind does, and what mankind thinks. The Madonna is surrounded by four spires, on which figures very close to her are placed: Joachim her father, the archangel Gabriel her messenger, St. Quintilian representing the martyrs of the Faith, a warrior saint who represents the defenders of the Faith. If then numerology, very important for Christianity and not only for it, can give us some indications, then the interpretation of the whole structure may change. People often wonder why St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, is not one of the one hundred and thirty-five figures depicted. By observing the layout of the spires, perhaps this can be explained. In fact, the Saint wrote on this subject: "[...] it was right that the Holy Baptistery should have eight sides, because true salvation was granted to the peoples when, at dawn on the eighth day, Christ rose from death". The font in the Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti was therefore octagonal, according to the bishop's wishes and on top of which the present Duomo stands. The crossing tower is also octagonal, with eight spires, just as there are eight spires on the apse and along its façade. Again, the twenty-four spires along the north walkway and the twenty-four along the south walkway are arranged in three rows of eight, so that they combine the two numbers on which the whole construction is based. St. Ambrose therefore appears everywhere in the whole construction, since he took part in it indirectly centuries earlier. And then there are the heroes of classical antiquity, the ancient divinities, the main characters of the Bible, those who contributed to the history of Milan and of Europe. Thousands of stories, brought together over six centuries of history and culminating in the Main Spire, are told by the Duomo. All the Milanese people summoned for the great procession in the shadow of the Madunina.