The spires of the Duomo

Milan is famous as one of the world’s most dynamic fashion and design capitals but there’s one monument whose design will never run out of fashion: the Duomo. The Duomo is the largest cathedral in Italy and one of the largest in the world. Work on the current structure began in the 14th century and continued for hundreds of years. Today, the cathedral is a striking blend of Gothic and neo-Gothic styles, with a façade that’s second to none. Mark Twain visited Milan in 1867 and remarked:

What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!…


The Duomo in Milan

The crown of spires

The Duomo is arguably Milan’s most famous monument and attracts millions of visitors every year. The ornate interior is nothing short of breathtaking but before you step inside, explore the elaborate exterior, with its sculptures, columns and a roof that bursts into a crown of spires, each topped by a unique statue.


The elaborate spires and arches of the Duomo's façade

The best way to admire the Duomo’s impressive exterior is to do the roof-climb – or you could simply take the elevator! The path winds its way around the upper levels, offering visitors magnificent close-ups of the intricate stone sculptures, spires, gargoyles and statues. The close-ups and the views across Milan and of the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are absolutely stunning.


Statues atop the spires


The sun peeks through the spires


The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II seen through the spires

A stairway takes visitors to the rooftop where they can sit and enjoy the views of the spires – look for the polychrome Madonna statue atop the highest spire (at a dizzying height of 109 meters or roughly 360 feet). If it’s a clear day, I recommend doing the roof-climb just before sunset. It’s a magical experience to see the pinnacles and statues bathed in the orangy-pink glow from the sun.


The roof of the Duomo

Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. … (Up on) the roof…springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance…We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street… They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands. – Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s spirited description of the Duomo’s exterior inspired me to spend more time to explore this architectural wonder. The crown of spires certainly took my breath away.

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11 Responses to “The spires of the Duomo”

  1. Keith Jenkins 10/04/2013 10:19 am

    Thanks Melissa! 🙂

  2. Melissa 09/04/2013 10:10 pm

    Keith it really is an awesome piece of architecture! I have seen it twice and each time I am inspired. Love the photos!

  3. Josie 09/04/2013 12:36 pm

    Hey Keith,

    Amazing, amazing spires. You’ve really captured the immensity of it all — and it makes me think of the incredible craftsmanship that went into constructing this beautiful place.

    Thanks for the great pics!


  4. rome food tour 09/10/2012 5:51 am

    Beautiful photos of the Milan Duomo!

  5. Christina 08/10/2012 9:48 pm

    Love the Mark Twain quotes – didn’t know he visited! But I agree – there is something striking about the Duomo that we didn’t feel at the other large cathedrals like it.

  6. Martin Pietrzak 21/04/2012 9:20 pm

    The Duomo is amazing, we visited last year. We just came back from Granada SPain and checked out the amazing cathedral there. If you have a chance, you must visit, it is a true treat.

  7. velvet 04/04/2012 3:23 pm

    Haha, thanks for the stat Jennifer! Think I described it as countless… 🙂 Certainly very impressive!

  8. Jennifer 04/04/2012 10:23 am

    Great photos! Did you know there are 3400 statues in and on this impressive cathedral?

  9. Jenna 10/03/2012 11:43 pm

    I haven’t been to Milan, and I didn’t realize you could do a roof walk like that. What an amazing view of the church and its surroundings!

  10. velvet 12/02/2012 8:28 pm

    Thanks Andi! 🙂


  11. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures 11/02/2012 2:27 am

    Awesome shots!

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