What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!…
–Mark Twain, commenting on the Duomo in “Innocents Abroad.”
I just read that the Duomo in Milan—one of Italy’s most beautiful structures—is showing off during this Christmas season with new lights.
On December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, as Milanese Mayor Letizia Moratti and thousands of citizens looked on, church officials turned the switch to illumine the Cathedral’s glorious stained glass windows from within.
The windows will be illuminated throughout Advent and the Christmas season. After January 10, the 68 low-energy light bulbs will be turned on every Saturday and Sunday, and on religious feastdays.
Our family visited the Duomo—the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, and the second-largest Catholic cathedral—on October 6, 2000. I remember the date because it was my birthday, and because it was the first day of our first-ever trip to Europe, a combination family vacation/25th anniversary trip.
It took 500 years to complete this masterpiece of pinnacles and spires, flying buttresses and statuary. Construction began in 1386, on a site dedicated to Fourth-Century Milan bishop St. Ambrose, one of the Doctors of the Church. The building was consecrated by St. Charles Borromeo in1577. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the completion of the façade in 1805, and he was crowned King of Italy within its walls. Mussolini commanded the construction of the 5-manual, 225-rank pipe-organ, which is the largest in all of Italy.
And on October 6, 2000, the Schiffer family– like myriad Christian pilgrims before us– turned the corner in a shopping district, to stand in awe before this architectural masterpiece.