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GianGaleazzo: the hidden face of the Duomo

Article by students from the school-work alternation project

Gian Galeazzo Archivio
27 June Jun 2019 1442 27 June 2019

Many documents refer to the figure of GianGaleazzo Visconti, who contributed significantly towards the construction of Duomo di Milano. The most famous of these documents include ducal letters, privileges and concessions. But an unexpected source of information about the Duke of Milan is a photograph of the statue of San Giorgio located at the top of the Carelli spire.

Situated in the north-western side of the apse, the statue is attributed to Giorgio Solari. It suffered considerable damage during World War 2, and what we see today is a copy of the original one, which is preserved in the Museum.

If we observe it carefully, we can discern the Duke’s features in the saint’s face.

After his father’s death, GianGaleazzo inherited the Milanese area and decided to contribute towards the construction of the new Cathedral in view of making it a symbol not only for Italy but also for the whole of Europe.

We are aware that the story according to which the first stone of the Duomo was laid by the Duke is actually not documented. Hence, in actual fact, no foundation ceremony was held because a new church was not being constructed. Instead, the former cathedral was only being renovated.

It must be said that GianGaleazzo himself did not claim authorship of the initiative. In fact, he said that he granted privileges “for the factory of the most important church of our city of Milan that has long been in ruins and is now under construction, to receive a much deserved and pious construction.”

During the entire course of history, political authority has always been in close contact with religious authority. Indeed, we find important interventions even in this regard.

An initial attempt to involve the Milanese in the construction works for the Duomo was made by Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo, but work was actually initiated with the papal bill of Pope Boniface IX and the subsequent concession of indulgences to the people.

Text by Alice Villa and Kristina Cavaletti from the A. Banfi Institute during their school-work alternation period at the Archive of VenerandaFabbrica del Duomo.