The Candoglia marble quarries are located upstream in the hamlet of Candoglia, pertaining to the town of Mergozzo, on the left side of the Toce river, right at the opening of the Ossola Valley, one hundred kilometres to the north-east of Milan.
A PRIVILEGE THAT SPANS CENTURIES, FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE FABBRICA DEL DUOMO DI MILANO
“Therefore, for the reasons previously stated, with this Decree we order our Captain of Lake Maggiore, the Vicar of Locarno, and our Chief Magistrate of Intra and Pallanza as well as all of the Officials responsible, to fully require that on behalf of the Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano the stone mentioned in the attached petition may be mined, on lands where these stones are found and, in reverence to the aforementioned Church, may be freely removed and transported without any disbursement of money, as has been done up until now”.
Open letter by Gian Galeazzo Visconti to the Deputies of the Fabbrica
Lodi, 24 October 1387
It was Gian Galeazzo Visconti, a lord in Milan and founder of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, who decided to substitute the bricks, with which construction of the Cathedral was originally planned, with Candoglia marble.
With the aforementioned Decree, free transoport of the marble across the waterways was granted “sine pecuniae”, delivered right to the banks of the canal, making it possible to always have it in abundance for the “rehedificatione vestae mojoris ecclesiae mediolanensis” and for the preservation of the Cathedral's splendour throughout centuries.
A "UNIQUE" MARBLE FOR THE DUOMO, A SIGN OF RELIGIOUS AND CIVIC VALUES
In his choice of concession, the political aspect of Gian Galeazzo Visconti's donation is apparent. In fact, the gesture underpinned an ambitious development project, as Visconti intended to adapt his advanced and efficient means of transport to suit commercial and military needs.
The mining privilege was renewed several times over and once again in Pavia on 21 August 1473 by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, an illustrious lord of Milan and comte de Vertus in Champagne, or conte di Virtù. In this decree he recalls and cites the previous concession from 1387 in favor of the Fabbrica and reconfirms the authorization. The commercial sale or use of this marble and these stones was severely prohibited.
“Dignetur per suas opportunas litteras concedere de novo dictum montem cum suis pentinentiis praefatae fabricae, et decernere ac declarare, quod nullus absquae licentia ipsorum deputatorum praefetaea fabricae in eo monte cavare nec cavari facere possit de marmore in eo existente”.
Over the years the concession became almost a matter of religion and custom. Through the centuries and with the succession of various governments and administrations, from the Spanish to the French to the Austrian and, finally, to the Italian, each of which left their historical mark on this region which saw the Duomo grow to become a religious and civic symbol, we thus arrive at the present day. With art.1 of Legislative Decree n.214 from 1928, the Italian government confirmed “[…] the existence of perpetual easement on behalf of the Duomo di Milano of public and private lands on the Monte di Candoglia to be able to freely and gratuitously mine the marble and flint used for the Fabbrica and prohibits anyone from mining, transporting, or selling the aforementioned materials without the consent of the Fabbrica itself. With the sole exception of the materials required for the construction and maintenance of buildings on site”.
After seven centries of the excavation and transformation of Candoglia marble for the Cathedral, the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo has now made the Restoration Diaries accessible online: a picture diary, updated weekly, that reveals the enormous work hiding behind each spire and restoration of this international symbol of Milan.
Today, as always, the Candoglia quarries persevere in their demanding task, continuing the "miracle" of Gian Galeazzo who turned this area into a centre of work and life at the service of the city.