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4 August Aug 2016 1656 4 months ago

The capitals of the Duomo di Milano are revealed in a new light, after centuries in the shadows.

The new lighting system inaugurated in 2015 exalts the extraordinary beauty of the cathedral's artistic legacy

On 1 May 2015, with a spectacular “Festival of Lights”, the new lighting system designed by engineer Pietro Palladino (Studio Ferrara Palladino and Associates) for the Veneranda Fabbrica was inaugurated. The goal of the new lighting is to highlight the monument's impressive history, to transform light into an instrument which enhances the magnificence of the architecture and sculptures, and to celebrate the most important religious structure in the city.

As soon as you cross the threshold into the Duomo di Milano, a symbol of Milan and its people, you cannot help but be astonished by the grandeur of its architecture, by the sheer proportion that, right from the very first moment, accompanies your gaze upward; a newly discovered beauty that can now be appreciated thanks to the lumen (luminous power) of the installed LED, which have progressively revealed the dark and hidden parts of the vaults, “in the dizzying heights of the intertwined arches and the columns”.

After an initial sense of bewilderment before such majesty, due to the severity and predominance of a verticality typical of the Gothic style, you will be overcome by admiration for the skilful attention to detail and for the unprecedented originality and exceptional artistic nature of the decorative elements of the illuminated capitals.

The capitals are among the most characteristic elements of the Duomo's architecture. They are found at the top of 52 columns, at a height of approximately 18 meters, and support the weight of the Lancet arch, dividing the Cathedral into five naves creating a true stone Bible.

They are 6 meters high  – ten Milanese arm-lengths is the metric indicated in the drawing registered by Antonio di Vincenzo in 1390 –  and adorned by 8 to 32 sculptures all around, set into the niches and atop the pointed pillars. They date back to the prototypes created at the end of the 14th century by Giovannino de' Grassi, Matteo da Campione, and Jean Mignot (1401).

The subjects are primarily saints and characters from the Old Testament. We recognize Saint Francis with his habit and stigmata on his chest, the evangelists, and the saints, depicted with a book in hand. There is also a statue of Saint Lucy, protector of the stonecutters, holding her eyes on a plate, a symbol of her martyrdom.

Observing every single detail of the Cathedral, from its columns to its capitals and vaults, it is almost unfathomable that such workmanship and attention to detail could have taken place in semi-darkness. This too is one of the secrets behind the mastery with which the Veneranda Fabbrica has scrupulously and with such sublime devotion cared for this stupendous monument up to the present day.