We’d like to tell you about the grand weddings in the Duomo, an old but always fascinating story.
GRANDEUR AND MAGNIFICENCE
Before the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in Milan marriages were generally celebrated at home and concluded with blessing of the bride and a church service. The weddings of the most influential and important families of the city, on the other hand, were grandiose and magnificent occasions, celebrated in the Duomo with great public participation. For these occasions, the Cathedral was dressed to look its best and systems were even devised to magnify the solemn effect.
OUTER DOORS, BROCADES AND SILVER FOR THE WEDDING OF THE DUKE
On 30 November 1493 the wedding of Maximilian I to Bianca Maria, second daughter of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Bona of Savoy, was held. The chronicles tell us that in front of the Duomo was «un’antiporta cum le columne de canto […] su l’intrare della giesia se vedeva l’una e l’altra banda coperta de paramento de brockat». Steps led to the rostrum on the High Altar and a further two smaller ones for the most important guests. At the sides of the choir were two rostrums, the first for the singers and the second for the trumpeters. The description continues: «[…] l’altare era ornatissimo de tutti li argenti et sancti d’argento». For the occasion, the celebrant was the archbishop Guido Antonio Arcimboldi, «con grandissimo ceremoniale et solennitate de soni de trombe et pifferi, et organi et canti de la cappella».
A PRINCESS FROM DENMARK
Another grand wedding was celebrated in great pomp and splendour in the Duomo forty years later, on 3rd May 1534: that of Duke Francesco II Sforza and Princess Cristina of Denmark, daughter of Christian II of Denmark and Isabella, sister of the Emperor Charles V, aged thirteen at the time. Again the Cathedral was sumptuously dressed: «al mezzo e al fondo, uno ornato de legnamo tutto pento, con dentro sant’Ambrogio e santo Protasio e santo Gervasio, vestiti in abiti come vivi; poi all’altare grande, tutto ornato de brocato d’oro attorno all’ancona; che certo all’entrare da quella ecclesia pariva intrare in paradiso». For the occasion, Cristina received as a dowry the city of Tortona. Unfortunately, one year later she was already a widow and in 1541 she married Francis I of Lorraine, adding to her titles that of Duchess of Lorraine.