14 April Apr 2016 1556 6 months ago

When the people of Milan write about the Duomo

A journey through the folk poetry dedicated to the international symbol of Milan

“The Milanese are very strange people.
Condemned to always slave doggedly away and to be suspicious of empty sounds for their entire lives, a handful of swallows taking flight against a blue sky framed by spires, or a glimmer of sunlight illuminating a window pane are all it takes to heartbreakingly bring some lovely old hidden memory to mind or move them to tears.
After which, inexplicably upset with themselves and almost ashamed of their own weakness, they immediately return home to write verses on their Madonnina d’oro”. (Antonio Cassi Ramelli, 1965)

In its almost seven centuries of history, the Duomo has always been a source of inspiration for men of faith, artists, poets, and scholars.
Alessandro Manzoni defined it "the eighth wonder of the world", Heinrich Heine was amazed that "the carving was done in real marble", Percy Bysshe Shelley, lifting his gaze, noticed the stars that seemed to collect among the spires, making the Duomo superior to any other architectural accomplishment. Stendhal, Emerson, Carducci, Buzzati, Gadda, Cattaneo all lost themselves in the fascination of the nave, of the “fanciula di Jesse”, among the rays of sunlight filtering down through the window panes, the dazzling light of the piazza, and the pure white of the marble.

The anthology cited here would be missing an important part if not for the pens of Milan's most passionate dialectal poets and their poems dedicated to el noster Domm.
The publication of these poems took place between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
Numerous dialectal poems were written towards the end of the 1800s, primarily composed in playful or jovial contexts, such as the one by Giuseppe Borgomanero, administrator of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo for about thirty years: “Ecco el Domm! L’è tutt de sass!”.  An anthem to "our mountain" in the heart of Milan is the Canzoniere Milanese by Gaetano Crispi, including the poem  Su sul Domm.
In Emilio de Marchi's Milanin Milanon (1902), a typical example of the use of dialect in cadenced prose, El noster Domm contains the famous short prayer to the Madonnina which begins and ends the poem: “O Madonna indorada del Domm, fina tant che te vedi a lusì, mi stoo ben, sont allegher, foo i tomm. Ma on moment che no t'abbia pu lì sotta j'oeucc — o Madonna del Domm -- senti on voeuj, gh'oo on magon de no dì”.
In 1910 Enzo Marana dedicated his volume  De penser in vers e quadretitt to the Duomo, in which his inspiration wanders between the spires, the bas-reliefs, and the statues; in 1923 Giannino Sessa expressed his profound religious faith when he poetically transformed the comment on the biblical episodes represented in the Duomo's large windows (Invedriad del Domm) into chromatic images. Luigi Medici collected fourteen sonnets inspired by subjects that had never been written about by others: El monument del medeghin, La tomba d’Aribert, El Santo Ciod, La Meridiana.  In the mid-1930s, with the extinction of the Artistic Family that had surrounded itself with talented Meneghini poets, the survivors were divided into the Patriotic Family and the Meneghina, the motto of which is summed up in a volume of dialectal poems from 1940, “per respirà quell’aria d’ona volta”.

After WWII the competitions held by the old and new Meneghini groups resumed, while other Milanese institutions were involved in defending and promulgating the spread of the dialect, such as the Università Popolare, the Società del Giardino, the Philological, the Accademia del Dialetto Mlanese, El Sciroeu di poetta, the Accademia della Tavola Rotonda, and many more.
In both the Strenna and the Rassegna della vita milanese the printing of the ’Almanacco, an editorial initiative for articles and poems dedicated to the Duomo, continued for several years. The recurring source of inspiration in the Meneghini Almanacs was “La cara Madonnina in scima al Domm”.
On occasion of the Madonnina's second centennial in 1975, the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo announced a competition between all dialectal poets so as to celebrate this important anniversary in the spoken language of the people.
Of the hundreds of poems submitted, twenty were chosen, thirteen of which by Milanese poets, including Alvaro Castelli, Mario Comolli, Enrico Giuliani, and Fermo Roggiani.
However, the most famous words of all remain the lyrics to the song by Giovanni D’Anzi: “O mia bella Madonnina – che te brillet de lontan – tutta dora e piscinina – ti te dominet Milan”.