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Not just marble. The history of the windows in the Archival documents

Document of the Month, July 2017

In the modern section of the Veneranda Fabbrica's Archives, called the “Archivio di Deposito” [Storage Archives], the extensive documentation relating to the construction and restoration of the Cathedral from the start of the 19th century to today is preserved.

Most of the documents regard the architectural and sculptural aspects of the structure, but there are also interesting documents relating to another aspect that is integral to the Cathedral's harmonious splendour: the windows.

The document we are showcasing this month is a report presented to the Veneranda Fabbrica's administration by architect Paolo Cesa Bianchi, who oversaw the restorations from 1877 to 1904. It is a text that is fundamental to the study of the windows and whose title alone is meaningful: “Regarding the overall arrangement of the fire-glazed windows, in relation to their restoration”. As significant as the title, is the length: 32 handwritten pages, in which all of the individual work necessary for each window is meticulously described.

In fact, as Bianchi illustrates in the first part of his report, over the centuries various restorations of the stained glass windows caused them to appear “disorderly and lacking in a sense of logic, thus making it impossible to reconstruct the narrative represented in each window”.

Furthermore, attached to the document is a diagram that reproduces all of the windows with their relative division into panes, accompanied by measurements: drawn on a large 104x34cm transparency entitled "Sizes and configurations of the various compartments of the Duomo's large windows" and displaying the date of the report (4 February 1880) and Cesa Bianchi's signature. As with all of the attachments to reports presented by the Fabbrica's architects during the 19th century, this one too surprises us with its beauty, granting an intrinsic artistic quality to the fundamental value of the document itself.

This and many other documents can be viewed from Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 am to 5:30pm, by appointment only. 

For information please send an e-mail to: archivio@duomomilano.it or call 0272022656 ext. 117.