Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy

Milan Cathedral is one of the most breathtaking cathedrals in Europe. Its immense dimensions and masterful decorations make it one of the most important sights of Milan.

The massive Milan Cathedral is one of the most famous buildings and one of our 10 most beautiful churches in Europe. The breathtaking place of worship is the third largest church in the world in terms of area, after St. Peter 's Basilica in Rome and the Spanish Cathedral of Seville. It also has a fixed place on our list of top 10 sights of Italy.


PICTURES: Milan Cathedral in Milan

Photo gallery: Milan Cathedral

Stunning architecture of Milan Cathedral

The massive Milan Cathedral, "Duomo di Milano" in the national language, is the third largest church in the world by area, Italy - © Alexey Arkhipov / Shutterstock
© Alexey Arkhipov / Shutterstock

Literally every observer standing on the prestigious cathedral square in front of Milan's cathedral is at first stunned. Its magnificently decorated spires rise up to 100 meters into the sky. The enormous facade of light marble appears even higher than it really is due to the countless slender pillars.

Walking around Milan Cathedral, there are 2,000 sculptures and 135 delicate turrets to discover on its majestic walls, 157 meters long and 109 meters wide. The gigantic arched windows of colorful glass are among the largest in the world.

Visit of the Milan Cathedral

Detail of the exterior facade of Milan Cathedral, one of the most breathtaking cathedrals in Europe, Italy - © pio3 / Shutterstock
© pio3 / Shutterstock

The massive dimensions of Milan Cathedral continue inside. The 45-meter-high, five-nave church structure is supported by 52 massive columns decorated with sculptures. In the endless aisle leading to the altar, visitors walk over precious marble and are flanked by magnificent paintings.

The light falling through the 20-meter-high stained glass windows gives the magnificent cathedral a very special atmosphere. In the side aisles you can see the baptistery, magnificent side altars from the past centuries and numerous sarcophagi of saints and founders.

The Nail of the Cross - Priceless Relic in Milan Cathedral

In the sanctuary, a 16th-century pavilion rises prominently, containing the Blessed Sacrament tabernacle supported by four bronze angels.

Another tabernacle is located under the top of the vault at a safe height of 45m and is marked by a small red bulb. It contains the Holy Cross Nail from the Cross of Jesus as a priceless relic, said to have been found by the mother of Emperor Constantine.


Once a year, the reigning bishop of Milan soars to the lofty heights on the Nivola, which is decorated with clouds and angels, to bring down the Holy Nail of the Cross for adoration under military guard.

More sights in Milan Cathedral

View over the rooftops of Milan to Milan Cathedral at dusk, Italy - © Simone Simone / Shutterstock
© Simone Simo

Hidden directly under the sanctuary is the circular crypt from the early 17th century, whose walls are decorated with scenes from the life of St. Borromeo. Here you can also find the Cathedral Treasure of Milan, which, among numerous other treasures, houses the silver capsule given by the Pope to St. Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century.

From the crypt, one enters the breathtakingly decorated chapel of San Carlo Borromeo. In the center of the octagonal splendor rest his mortal remains in a leaded glass sarcophagus.

In the south of the cathedral, another astronomical peculiarity awaits the visitor. At noon, a ray of sunlight falls through a hole in the roof of Milan's Duomo, traveling along an 18th-century meridian line made of brass.

Climbing the Milan Cathedral

Fantastic view from the roof of Milan Cathedral of some of the sculptures located there, Italy - © Anibal Trejo / Shutterstock
© Anibal Trejo / Shutterstock

If you want to see the masterful stonework of Milan Cathedral up close, the best place to do so is on the roof of the monumental cathedral. The 200-step climb (don't worry, there's also an elevator) is not free, but you can get up close and personal with the sculpture of Milan Cathedral.

Also unforgettable is the breathtaking view of Milan, which on clear days even reaches the Alps.

History of the Milan Cathedral

The massive Milan Cathedral, "Duomo di Milano" by night, Italy - © Photobac / Shutterstock
© Photobac / Shutterstock

Construction of the Milan Cathedral began in 1386. Previously, the early Christian Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Roman Basilica of St. Tecla stood on its site. In 1388 the foundations were finished and the construction of the facade began from the back (the chancel first).

The plans of the Milan Cathedral were changed and expanded several times until finally , after about 500 years of construction, the monumental project with the cathedral square in front could be completed. Due to the long construction period, the Milan Cathedral cannot be assigned to any architectural style. Its main part was built in Gothic style, but it also has Baroque and neo-Gothic elements.


Related links:

Official website of the Milan Cathedral