Sentry of the South
Spire G25 is dominated by a massive statue with body facing the south and face turned to the south-west from where the Libeccio wind blows, thus named because it comes from Libya and is known by everybody for the warmth it brings along with the fine desert dust. The Southern Sentinel holds his lance by his right side and rests his entire weight on it, perhaps as a result of weariness caused by his centuries long vigil. The helmet on the head and the armour identify him as a warrior, he who has watched the city’s southern gate for many generations. The same gate that stands on the route to Rome and which, over the centuries, has been travelled by many, ranging from the Byzantine people during the siege of the city, to Emperor Frederick II. And again the papal legates who travelled for lengthy negotiations with the Lords of Milan. Today new Milanese come from the South, those who helped to build the city yesterday and who will contribute to its transformation tomorrow. Meanwhile the Sentinel keeps watch and conceals his most precious weapon, which is not the lance but his eyes, the treasure chest of memory: as if in a mirror, his eyes reflect the figures that pass by the city and by the Cathedral, who enter and exit it, and who are recorded in the marble, each leaving his own sign. This is the Sentinel of all those who pass-by and of those who host the foreigner, sharing, bread, wine and life-giving medicines with him. Today the statue we admire on Spire G25 is probably a reproduction. In fact, the original version was made in 1653 by sculptor Giovanni Andrea Prevosto, who also authored the preparatory scale model, and who had already produced other works at the Duomo’s marble workers’ site. Some documents that help us reconstruct the historical events of our Southern Sentinel at the marble workers’ site have been found and studied at Veneranda Fabbrica’s Archives. For instance, we know that the Provost was committed to producing the statue “to be placed at the top of the pyramidal wing towards the Royal Courtyard” when the worker Francesco Muttone made the spire top intended for it. We also know that the Sentinel was never moved from its current position, as often occurred for other statues in the course of time.