The cathedral was started in 1386. It is a magnificent example of a very special interpretation of Gothic architecture by the Lombards. It rises like a huge mountain of marble but richly ornamented with statues, spires, buttresses, flying buttresses and pillars.
There are more than 3500 statues including the 96 huge ones with waterspouts. This immense church, divided into 5 aisles, has an exterior length of 157 meters and a width, at its transept, of 92 meters It covers an area of 11,700 sq meters (exceeded only by St. Peter s in Vatican City and the Seville Cathedral).
The “Madonnina” is covered with gold leaf – 3900 sheets of it She stands on the tallest spire which reaches a height of 108 50 meters.
Once inside the Duomo one must be sure to stop at: the tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici di Marignano called “Il Medeghino”. the work of Leone Leom in 1563; the wooden choir; the crypt and the sepulcre of San Carlo Borromeo: the Treasury with its extremely fine examples of sacred art; the Trivulzio candelabra and finally the Museo del Duomo (in the Palazzo Reale nearby). It has been remodeled and enlarged to contain the collections in 21 halls, a visit here is indispensable to an understanding of the significance of this church.
On the doors of the Duomo is a sign which reads: “The Cathedral is a monument and a holy place. Visitors are kindly requested to behave accordingly and to respect the silence. Those who are not properly dressed are not permitted to enter the Temple of God”.