Restoration Journal



For Christmas, new lighting of the Duomo's Madonnina, façade, and windows: a gift from the Veneranda Fabbrica to all of Milan

The light of the Duomo is the light of Milan.

A new milestone along the Veneranda Fabbrica's journey, in the wake of a commitment made to all residents of Milan, worshippers, and tourists from around the world who come to visit the city each year.

Beginning on Friday 23 December 2016, the Duomo's Madonnina, façade, and windows will be newly resplendent.

In fact, after having inaugurated the monument's new interior lighting system on 1 May 2015, in time for the start of Expo 2015, which revealed a Cathedral that no one had ever seen before, the Veneranda Fabbrica, with the help of the most advanced technology, now continues in their commitment, bringing new light to the monument.

An achievement of great visual impact and extraordinary importance: on initiative of the Board of Directors, the Fabbrica decided to move forward with this project with a deep sense of responsibility and in the name of all the residents of Milan who see the light of the Duomo as an essential element punctuating every moment of their lives.

The final project, entrusted by the Board of Directors to engineer Pietro Palladino from the studio of Ferrara Palladino and Assoc., also the designer of the former exterior lighting system and of the monument's interior lighting, was delivered and approved by the superintendence at the end of April 2016.

Thanks to the fruitful collaboration with the City of Milan and with A2A, whose role was fundamental in completing the project in time for Christmas Eve, the Fabbrica has given the city the gift of this extraordinary accomplishment just in time for the Christmas celebrations.

The Madonnina's new lighting

The Duomo's Madonnina will stand out against the Great Spire, bathed in a new light. This extraordinary symbol of protection, so dear to the people of Milan and to all those who come to visit the city, will thus be visible as never before, shining down in all her splendour from the Cathedral's tallest spire.

BEFORE: Up until now the lighting for the Madonnina used PAR lamps (subject to many problems and in need of frequent substitutions, as well as consuming a great deal of energy) anchored to two metal rings positioned at the base of the statue at two different heights. To illuminate the Madonnina's face it was necessary to place one of the lamps on the halberd, in a higher position, in order to avoid the overhang created by the drape of her robe (which blocks a great deal of the lamps' luminous intensity), and obtain a more favourable angle of projection.

Only the bottom portion of the rear of the statue was illuminated. This effect was partly due to the luminous intensity of the lamps, but primarily to the unfavourable installation geometry.

AFTER: The Madonnina's new lighting makes use of small LED spotlights (7 cm in diameter, weighing 0.5 kg) installed on articulated telescopic arms in carbon fibre, anchored to the existing metal rings with special couplings. These arms provide the system with increased durability and, at the same time, provide the proper amount of flexibility in order to position the lights as precisely as possible.

The new lighting solution includes the addition of another articulated arm which, beginning at the halberd, attains a position that is distant 70 cm from the back of the statue. This makes it possible to illuminate the upper portion of the rear of the statue, so that it is no longer a "dark side", and finally make the Madonnina completely visible.

21 LED projectors were used to illuminate the statue. The use of projectors with varying optics makes it possible to illuminate every part of the statue, minimizing the areas left in shadow. The lighting values obtained were in the order of 1000 lx.

The entire project was funded by the Veneranda Fabbrica.

The new lighting of the Duomo's façade and windows

The exterior lighting of the monument's façade

The project continues with the new lighting of the monument's façade and windows, which will be visible beginning on 23 December.

This project is the first piece in a more extensive mosaic which, by the summer of 2017, will culminate in new lighting for the exterior perimeter of the monument and its roofs.

The first requirement was to obtain high performance, reliable materials. The system is, in fact, particularly vulnerable to weather conditions. The goal is to achieve excellent and extraordinarily reliable lighting features that keeps the need for maintenance at a minimum, given that it is difficult to reach most of the installation areas.

The primary goal of the new lighting project is the illumination of the façade and of the windows of the three orders, so that they are clearly visible from within, integrated with a uniform illumination of the exterior parts of the monument. Furthermore, the project includes accent lighting on the characteristic spires that define the Duomo's profile, making it the worldwide symbol of Milan.

For the façade's new lighting, a total of 56 narrow beam projectors (6°) were planned, divided into two groups of 28 projectors each. The devices were installed in discreet positions on the high cornices of the neighbouring buildings in order to avoid glare.

The lighting values were kept in the order of 100lx medi so as to not affect the lighting within the piazza.

For the proper positioning of the projectors, the outline of the façade was virtually divided into 24 "sectors"

within which the points of projection for each device were identified.

In this way it was possible to position them effectively during installation.

Thanks to the collaboration with the City of Milan and A2A, it was possible to complete the project in time for Christmas Eve.

The new illumination of the Duomo's windows

Beginning on Friday 23 December and continuing through the entire Christmas season, all the way to 6 January 2017, from 7pm to midnight the windows of the Cathedral will also be bathed in new light.

In fact, in past years, due to restorations that were under way, the Veneranda Fabbrica was able to only partially illuminate the windows. Now these impressive mosaics of faith and art, the fruit of painstaking work by master glass-makers who contributed to the monument over the centuries, will once again shine as we approach Christmas Day.

BEFORE: The existing equipment, aside from being extremely heavy, had to be removed because, in addition to not being photometrically adequate, it also caused the chains to become quite hot, with a considerable waste of energy and potential risks to the structure. Furthermore, it was only possible to back-light the windows when there were no people inside the Duomo.

NOW: The illumination of the Cathedral's first order windows was completed through the use of LED devices installed on chains, more or less in the same positions as the old projectors. The project used 101 250W LED projectors, for a total installed power of approximately 25 kW, also making it possible to illuminate the windows of the façade.

The total refurbishment of the Duomo's electrical system

Albeit less visible to the eyes of the millions of worshippers and tourists who come to visit the Cathedral each year, the restoration of the Duomo has, in these past few months, included intense work on achieving a major new goal: the refurbishment of the monument's entire electrical system. A huge and extremely delicate project due to its many complexities such as, for example, its coexistence with the wooden furniture of the sacristy.

The project will continue over the next few months and updated data and information will be provided.