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Gian Galeazzo Visconti’s great dream for Milan

Duke, Lord and founder of the Veneranda Fabbrica

Museo del Duomo di Milano
29 January Jan 2020 0949 29 January 2020

The Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano has a 628 years old history, when it was founded by the Duke, Gian Galeazzo Visconti.

The Duke was born in Pavia on the 16th October 1351, son of Galeazzo II and Bianca di Savoia.
Very few is known about his childhood and education, probably conducted in the castle of the city. Certainly Francesco Petrarca was his guest of honour and, according to the story told by P. C. Demebrio, it was Petrarca himself who created for Gian Galeazzo the coat of arms with the dove inside a radiant sun, with the motto «à bon droit».
Around 1370 Gian Galeazzo made his appearance in the political life until, in 1378, he took on the government of the state after the death of his father Galeazzo II. In 1385 he became Lord of Milan.

In 1386 Milanese people, endorsed by the bishop Antonio da Saluzzo, began the construction of a new cathedral for the city of Milan, dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente and located in the place where Santa Maria Maggiore once was: the Duomo, whose surface extent placed it among the first five biggest cathedrals in the world.

One year later, Gian Galeazzo Visconti suggested the construction of a monument in French-German Gothic style, that could not only become a symbol of the international views of Milan, but also express his personal greatness as duke.

So, in 1387 he founded the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, with the aim of coordinating the works of design, construction and preservation of the Duomo, and calling to Milan the greatest architects, sculptors and painters from all over Europe. The first architect to operate in the Fabbrica was Simone da Orsenigo in 1387, followed by other famous names like Nicola Bonaventura or da Benaventis in France, and Ulrico Füssingen from Ulm. It was these architects who contributed to the growth of the international vision that, still today, inspires the Cathedral.

The duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti granted the exclusive use of the Candoglia marble for the construction of the Duomo, allowing the access to the Candoglia quarries, source of the namesake stone. He also supported the endeavour with conspicuous financial endowments. One of which occurred just on the occasion of the Jubilee of the year 1390, announced by Pope Boniface IX and extended to the following year, being a source of huge offers – destined to the construction of the Cathedral - from worshipers from all over the world.

Gian Galeazzo suddenly died in 1402, victim of the plague. His body is still today buried in the Certosa di Pavia, strongly willed by him. Furthermore, as a recall of his strong link with the Duomo di Milano, on the first and oldest spire of the Duomo – the Carelli Spire – was built a statue in his honour, portraying St. George with the physiognomy of Gian Galeazzo. Today, from the Terraces a reproduction can be seen, while the original one is preserved inside the Grande Museo del Duomo.