Experiencing Ancient History


Duomo of Milano

There is a very very special place in my heart for the Duomo of Milano. It is a place where you can feel and experience history. 

It is a place that transcends time. Made in 1385. Conceive of how long it has been there. Imagine standing in the center of the square facing the Duomo, plant your feet on the smooth stones of the Piazza, and close your eyes. Imagine how many things have taken place right where you are standing. How many people have passed through in times of peace, in times of great sufferings and war, and in times of joy. That structure and what it represents, as been there through it all. It has maintained its integrity, whether out of fear or respect, and been a welcoming, protected home for that which represents spirituality, the beyond, and above the struggles of day-to-day life of whatever century its people passed through. It was put there to last forever.

In touching the stones, the marble, the smooth walls and textures of the sculptures you feel the age of their existence. It is humbling to conceive the length of time that has passed, from years, to life-spans of men, to hundreds of years, and such massive and overwhelming beauty and countless dedicated painstaking hours without any advanced building technology, for it to be built to be there forevermore.

The Duomo of Milano is over 634 years old, it was built in 1385. It is 215 feet tall. It covers 109,641 square feet and an entire city block and it is the oldest and 2nd largest Christian church in the world. It has a capacity of holding 40,000 people at any one time.

WIth over 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures there are more statues on THIS church, than on ANY other building in the world. 

It took more than 600 years to build it as thousands of workers and sculptors, over 70 architects to complete it over the spans of their lifetimes.

Near the main entrance there is a sundial on the floor. Though ancient, the sundial is surprisingly precise. It was placed by astronomers of the Accademia of Brera in 1768 and it is even used to regulate clocks around the city. A ray of sunlight from a hole on the opposite wall strikes the clock, shining the bronze tongue on June 21, the summer solstice, and the meridian on the winter solstice, December 21.

The ENTIRE building is made of a pink-hued white marble which glistens in the sunlight in an indescribably beautiful way.

You can take the stairs and go to the top of it, walk on the roof and see the skyline of Milano. From the terrazza you'll see breathtaking views across Milan and, on clear days, the snow-capped peaks of the Alps. You can also see the famous Madonnina, the gold-colored statue of Mary that stands on the cathedral's highest spire.

I've spent my childhood in the beautiful city of Milano, walked my first steps here, and visited the Duomo many times. One of my oldest and fondest memories of the Duomo is from when I was in the early single-digit years of my life. In the month of February each year there is the "Carnival Festival" with a huge parade and everybody dresses up in costumes and walks around the streets and throws confetti and eats Chiacchere (a powedered sugar coated pastry) and I'd dress up a Princess of Spring or as Snow White and walk on the same huge stone tiles in front of the Duomo with all the other children and people having fun. 

I consider myself very lucky to have been born and lived and experienced the beauty and richness in architecture and history of Milano and of Italy, that I used to take for granted. It is something that has to be seen and experienced and lived and I consider it a deeply enriching experience. Somebody can try describe it but it is entirely different to feel it with your own hands and body, just like the first time one sees snow, or fire, or the ocean you, there is such a thing as experiencing history. 

Hopefully this inspires you to go see it and walk through the same steps, feel its timelessness and admire the beauty that it holds which poured out of the hearts and love of the people that created it. 


Cristina Bernes