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|Milan - Duomo (The Cathedral)|
Few churches in ltaly underwent such a slow, complex building process as Milan's cathedral. In addition, putting up such a gigantic monument involved not only Lombardy but actually all of Italy. It was, in fact, through the cathedral that the High Gothic style from beyond the Alps made its way down to Milan and henceforth influenced the whole country. Progress was painstakingly slow: work actually went on throughout five centuries, although the original Gothic style was never abandoned. The cathedral, dedicated to Mary, was actually begun in 1387 over the site of the 9th century basilica of St. Maria Maggiore. Built on the express wish of Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo, the initiative found favor with Gian Galeazzo Visconti (then ruler of the city) and the whole MiIanese population. For that year the chief engineer was Simone da Orsegnigo who was aided by several Campionese (Swiss) masons. Nevertheless, the overall design of the cathedral was undoubtedly conceived by a sole mastermind, an artist definitely from beyond the Alps since, despite the fact that numerous architects had a hand in it, the cathedral never lost its amazing cohesiveness - a characteristic so typical of the work of Northern masters. It must be said, however, that the Gothic schemes in the hands of the Italian architects lost much of their Northern flavor and acquired a more typically Italian feeling. Simone da Orsenigo was, surrounded by a crew of great stonemasons: Marco "de Frixeno" of Campione, Matteo da Campione, and greatest of all, Giovannino de' Grassi. In 1389 da Orsenigo was dismissed and Nicola di Bonaventura was summoned from Paris. Nicola designed the huge pierced windows of the apse after his arrival in Milan on May 7, 1389 but he too was dismissed (on July 31 , 1390). Italian and foreign master craftsmen followed one another; amog them we may cite the Germans Johann from Freiburg, Heinrich Parler from Gmunden, Ulrich from Fussingen, Hans von Fernach, and the Italians Bernardo da Venezia, Gabriele Stornaloco, Marco da Carona, Giovannino de' Grassi and Giacomo da Campione. The latter two worked permanently in the cathedral workshop from 1392 on and left their imprint in the use of the so-called "Fowery Gothic" style known for its flamboyant decorative patterns. After the death of the great masterster de' Grassi, the Parisan Jean Mignot, sharply critical of what had been previously done, was put in charge, but opposed by Bernardo da Venezia and Bertolino da Novara, he was soon fired, and from then on the building of the Cathedral of Milan was supervised exclusively by Italian masters. In 1400 Filippino degli Ugoni became supervisor of the project; the capitals, vaulting, and terraces are of his design. Work went on at such a fast pace that by 14I8 the main altar could be cousecrated by Pope Martin V. When Francesco Sforza came to power in the mid 15th century, art in Milan was absorbing French and Tuscan influences. 15th century Milanese architecture and thus also that of the cathedral was strotigly influenced by three generations of the Solari family: Giovanni Solari, his son Guinforte, and Guinforte's son Pier Antonio. Guinforte's son-in-law', the great Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, won the competition called in 1490 for the building of the drum. Despite the new Renaissance turn art had taken, Amadeo was a strenuous defender of the structure's Gothic unity. He completed the drum by 1500. Ten years later the first of the four adjacent spires was put up it too in the Gothic style. Meanwhile the great surge of "Flowery Gothic" was gradually losing momentum, beaten by the new more plastic treatment of form advocated by Filarete, Luca Francelli, Francesco di Giorgi, and Leonardo, summoned from all over Italy to give fresh advice and up-to-date opinions on how the cathedral should be built. After a brief German intervention, a master called by Gian Galeazzo Sforza from Strasburg in 1482, Pellegrino Pellegrini, also known as Tibaldi, the favorite architect of Archbishop Carlo Borromeo, was named mastermason. Pellegrini immediately threw himself into the job and designed the patterns for the flooring and choir stalls. In 1572 Borromeo reconsecrated the cathedral. In 1585, when Pellegrini left for Spain, he got Martino Bassi and then later Lelio Buzzi, who had earlier designed the Ambrosian Library, to take over. When the other great Borromeo, Federico, was Archbishop, Fabio Mangoni was put in charge of the cathedral building, followed by Richini and the Quadrio, but the 18th century was ushered in and it was still incomplete. The great spire was erected between 1765 and 1769 and the fašade, based on Pellegrini's idea, was put up between 1815 and 1813. Work went on right through the 19th century, during which time the spires and the towers with stairways inside were completed. The whole complex construction, however, was badly in need of restoration: the first campaign was undertaken in 1935 and the second - even more complicated and painful - after the bombardments of 1943. During the latter restoration project, the flooring was restored and the statues and decorative elements which had suffered the greatest war damage were replaced. Finally, on December 8, 1966, the new churchyard was dedicated.
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