“Even more than commendation, our predecessors deserve our reverence and admiration; individuals who, through their generosity, contributed to providing the means for this enormous construction . With no regard to class differences, people flocked to make their own contributions to this great structure, not only in terms of materials, money, and objects, but also in terms of manual labour.”
(Annals of the Fabbrica del Duomo, Appendices Vol.1, pg.9)
What were the Origins of the Fabbrica's Annals?
It was 1867. During a meeting of the Board of Directors on the 12th of March a letter was written by the administrators of the Fabbrica del Duomo which stated: “Based on a proposal by and under the direction of our eminent colleague, Mr. Casanova, the Fabbrica del Duomo's board of directors has reorganized, transcribed, and in part summarized the collection (existent, with very few exceptions, in the Fabbrica archives) of the chapter member ordinations of the board of directors itself, which date from its inception in 1387 all the way up to the present day."
The purpose of this decision was to make the volumes, up until that moment scattered about, easily accessible and easily consulted: documents and information pertaining primarily to the Viscount and Sforzesca rule, as well as to the intermediate Ambrosian Republic. The Annals, thus constituted, were to represent the city of Milan, the arts, the industries, the salaries, and the local customs, but above all they were to provide a written account of many Milanese individuals and families. This collection and archiving project was to be made available for the benefit of academics and their research.
Out of curiosity, who came up with the name Annals and why?
Not everyone knows that it was Cesare Cantù, eminent historian and confidante to Alessandro Manzoni as well as author of the monumental Universal History who, on 27 March 1875, in response to the Fabbrica's Board of Director's request for its publication, subject to approval, suggested the title Annals of the Fabbrica del Duomo “offering a wealth of information on the country's history, the economy, and art."
Always looking towards the future
“Our purpose is not to write a story, but rather to prepare its materials."
The long-term intention of the Fabbrica regarding the compilation of the Annals was clear as far back as 1867. In fact, these acts aimed not only to tell the story of the Cathedral's construction, but above all that of its administration, which provides not only valuable artistic news, but civic news as well; “valuable” for those who realize that history is not merely characterized by vague generalities full of “pitfalls”, but also grants the privilege of observing of events.
It's no coincidence that, in 1300, this great work was wanted by and entrusted to the care of the people: each of Milan's six neighbourhoods were to select approximately fifty citizens to assist the board of directors in the construction of the Cathedral.
Furthermore, the financial administration of the city's patrimony led to an awareness regarding the price of comodities, the value of resources, horses, wine, bread, religious services, and uffizi, as well as of coins, metals, purchases, and home and farm rentals, to which are added technical processes, customs, and traditions.
“A onor di Dio e della B. V. sub cujus vocabulo, JAM MULTO RETRO TEMPORIBUS, initiata est, et nunc divina inspiratione et suocondigno favore fabbricatur”.
A gift that with the restoration of the Archives is reborn
The Annals were a great gift from the Veneranda Fabbrica's board of directors to the city and to future generations. It is for this reason that the Veneranda Fabbrica has today decided to continue in this vein, inaugurating, on May 30th of this year, the restored Archives and the online digitalisation of the Annals. Now available to everyone directly from the duomomilano.it website, the Annals represent not only the history of the Duomo, the international symbol of the city Milan, but also that of the Milanese people who built it, creating an eternal monument to their beauty and identity.