2. In the Duomo’s Paradise of Statues
3. Ornamental Sculptures
Like all Gothic cathedrals, since the very beginning the Duomo of Milan has been designed to convey, with its architecture and decorative elements, the message of Christian salvation.
In the vast scenario of the Duomo’s architecture, sculpture has always had a particular function and is extremely important. It is divided into ornamental sculpture, high-reliefs and full-relief figurative carvings.
The statuary (consisting of 3,400 statues and more than 700 figures inserted in the marble alto-relievo) that embellishes the capitals, the vaults, the marble face, the façade, the large windows and the 135 spires, symbolizes the image of Heaven. Here, patriarchs and prophets, martyrs and saints portray our eternal destiny as people delivered from sin by the Sacrifice of the Cross, guided by the Virgin Mary, who rises above the highest point of the temple. The statue collection is not only a distinguishing feature of the Duomo but also a record: it has in fact been added to incessantly for six centuries and is the only continuous evidence of sculptural activity at a cathedral site that has uninterruptedly, year after year, produced statues in keeping with the cultural atmosphere of each historical period.
Sculpture in the Duomo must be regarded as the main sign of the varied production of Middle-European masters who arrived in Milan during the first fifty years of existence of the Fabbrica and worked together with local carvers in order to contribute to the construction of the church. For this reason, this Cathedral is the most complete and significant showcase of seven centuries of Lombard sculpture.
The sculptors, however, had to resort to many devices when challenged with such a majestic building. In particular, the necessity to view the cathedral from below had to be kept in mind. This required the masters to emphasize the proportions of the different parts of each piece of work, increase or decrease the volume and plasticity of the forms, and adapt the bodies and their postures.
During the post-war period, many sculptures, especially the most important, were moved to the Duomo Museum, where they can be better admired and are organized according to a highly picturesque sequence.
2. In the Duomo’s Paradise of Statues
The Blessed Cardinal Ferrari and Father Monti
In March of 2006, the statues of the Blessed Cardinal Ferrari and Father Monti were placed among the Duomo’s saints and spires. This again reasserts the will of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo to complete the symbol of the New Jerusalem, expressed through the Milanese cathedral, in harmony with the original project that featured a multitude of martyrs and saints, examples of Christian truths for the people of the city and its surrounding lands. Compared to other medieval cathedral sites, the Duomo of Milan holds the unmatched record of uninterrupted statue production that spanned over six centuries, making this collection the most unique in the world.
By crowning the capital of one of the Duomo’s main columns, the statue of Luigi Monti, the religious layman, founder of the Congregation of the Children of the Immaculate Conception – and for this reason called “father” by his spiritual children – visually emphasizes the recognition of public devotion solemnly granted him by the Church. Hence, this blessed man joins the triumphant procession of men and women, the holy and elected souls who accompany the believer in the communion of the Eucharist. The statue was carved at the Fabbrica’s marble-cutters’ site based on a model by the sculptor Father Marco Melzi of the Beato Angelico School. With its compact form and graceful molding, this statue beautifully expresses the simplicity of Father Monti’s altruistic life and his vigorous and solid faith. It stands 1.8 meters in height and is skillfully chiseled both in its overall geometry and in its plastic and figurative ratios, thus translating into marble the search for the spirit of Christian charity toward those in need, the essence of this blessed man’s vocation. As for the statue of Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari, for over sixty years it was set in the capital of the column that stands to the right of the pillar supporting the north pulpit. For the Duomo it is therefore not a new acquisition. Nonetheless, we speak of it here because, following the beatification of the Cardinal (1987), it was removed to carry out an iconographic plan designed to host the marble likenesses of the two recently beatified Archbishops, Schuster and Ferrari. For their statues, two special corbels were placed on the columns that mark the boundary of the monumental Altar of St. Giovanni Bono, located in the south chevet. In the affection of the Milanese and in the heart of the Archbishop Alfredo I. Schuster, Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari was already a saint. His intense pastoral life and his long and painful illness, which was deeply shared by all day after day, forever sealed his revered memory in the hearts of the people of Milan. Among the documents housed in the Fabbrica archives it shows that, in February 1937, the Art Commission approved the model for a capital statue dedicated to Archbishop Ferrari designed by the sculptor Paolo Sozzi. It was later completed in 1943 by Jubafanti and now, finally visible to all, seems to welcome with a gesture of embrace the devotees and visitors of the Cathedral.
3. Ornamental Sculptures
This term identifies all the sculptural works of various shapes and sizes that complement the Duomo’s many architectural and structural elements, and constitute its aesthetic integration and perfection, thus contributing to the Cathedral’s characteristic and distinctive appearance.
The words “ornamental” and “decorations” are used for linguistic simplicity: when we speak of the Duomo of Milan, each sculptural expression contributes to the whole of the Cathedral, the worldly image of the New Jerusalem.
Kilometers of modeled and carved ribbing along with countless leafy and molded profiles accentuate the vertical structures, thus emphasizing their upward and lightness effect.
The outer perimeter, the terraces and the 135 spires are adorned with thousands and thousands of ornaments, each different from the other. Among them are over eight hundred trefoil corbels crowning the Duomo’s wainscots, consoles and canopies for statues, large cages, flat and rampant embrasures with their abundance of parapets, miniature pyramids, knots and foliage, and flying buttresses, while the spires feature a multitude of pediments, falcons, rosettes, and niches.
The richness of the interior decorations centers on the extremely high and original capitals that top the large cluster pillars, the immense 16th century altars and the monumental presbytery, where sculpture is expressed in many ways, materials and techniques.