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Marble and Music: the origins of the Milan Duomo’s beauty

Document from the Month of March 2019

Organo Settentrionale 1965
12 March Mar 2019 1101 12 March 2019

Nowadays, like in the previous centuries, the Veneranda Fabbrica cultivates and preserves the preciousness of the Duomo in every detail: statues, stained-glass windows, altars and furnishings, in a tireless service to Art and Faith. In the same way, for centuries the same Fabbrica has been taking care of another less tangible but equally fundamental element of beauty: Music. Combined with the imposing and slender architecture of the Duomo, music envelops the soul of the many faithful and tourists who contemplate the wonderful Cathedral every day.

From the very beginning, when in 1386 the Fabbrica began the impressive task of building the Monument, it was committed to ensuring that the magnificence of what was being planned and progressively built corresponded to an adequate solemnity in religious celebrations, rendered through the musical accompaniment of these celebrations. There are many archival documents thanks to which the "musical history" of the Duomo can be reconstructed. What we are presenting this month is interesting precisely because it is a brief historical excursus entitled Ancient News. About the introduction of the Organist and Musicians in the Milan Underground (AS cart. 404 fasc.1). This is an undated printed text, presumably from the end of the 17th century, followed by what appears to be a minute manuscript in the same issue.

The document traces the first phases of the musical life that was intoned among the marble naves of the Milan Duomo: between June and July 1395, thus a few years after the beginning of the great Construction Site, there is evidence of a capitular order that suggeststo build a beautiful Organ, which shall include decorationsfrom the same admirable factory and the honor of the City. The document then goes on to recall how once the Organ is built there was the issue of providing it with an Organist: which was the maestro Antonio Monti da Prato, the first permanent Cathedral organist, paid by the Veneranda Fabbrica to play in quibuslibetfestisprincipalibus, dominicis et festis B. Marie et Apostolorum et vigiliisearum et in quibuscumquealiisdiebus.

The following centuries, as the document reminds us, saw the introduction of Musicians for singing, then the appointment of a first chapel master, Matteo da Perugia, and then the establishment of a singing school for children, as well as many other measures. Even today, through the activity of the Cappella Musicale, which is the oldest cultural institution in Milan, the Fabbrica maintains its century-old commitment to the erudition of PueriCantores and the improvement of the magnificent instrument.

This was the starting point for the fundraising campaign for the restoration of the Organ: "15,800 notes for the Duomo", which appeals to those who want to continue to compose the Duomo’s great melody, giving voice to the instrument, threatened by dust, oxidation and other degradation factors.

Donating for the collection ofVAT is simple, visit the website www.duomomilano.it or call the toll-free number 800.528.477.