Eco Stampa Madonnina 20 10 1954
15 August Aug 2016 0900 2 years ago

Eco della Stampa, 1954: the scoop of the “leaning Madonnina”

Within the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo’s Archives, among the newspaper clippings from that time, one singular event represents the start of the collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Milan

A careful search among issues of Eco della Stampa from the first half of the 20th century, catalogued and preserved within the newly renovated Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano Archives, has many surprises in store for readers and consumers. Here is an example.

Piazza Duomo n. 31, summer 1954: the windows frame the Cathedral’s massive marble structure. After an almost habitual fleeting and distracted glance towards the pinnacle on which the golden Madonnina triumphs, architect Walter Ronchi begins to suspect that the Main Spire is not perfectly vertical. Wary of this impression, over the course of days and then weeks the architect starts to monitor the gradient of the spire. He invites colleagues, friends, painters, and engineers to explore every perspective and visual angle, and cultivates his own conviction that the central spire of the Duomo di Milano is at an unusual angle.

On 10 June 1954, Ronchi writes a letter to architect Zacchi, Superintendant of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, inviting him to conduct a structural survey in order to verify the truth of his impression. The Superintendant replies not long after, thanking him for his recommendation and assuring Ronchi that surveys would absolutely be conducted and that the results would be sent to him.

In July 1954, increasingly worried, Ronchi recklessly decides to turn to the press, thus dropping what the newspapers at the time called a “bomb”, and putting the whole city on alert. Meanwhile. Architect Zacchi reassures the Milanese people that despite receiving thousands of visitors per day, the marble of the Great Spire is in perfect condition and that none of its stones show any signs of cracking.

The peak, approximately 15 meters high measuring from the octagonal balcony, proved to be perfectly anchored to its base: only the tie beam fasteners were slightly rusted, but would soon be replaced. Then and there Zacchi conducted emergency surveys with a plumb line and measured the inclination of every side of octagon to the centimetre, with results that were comforting yet not sufficiently precise. For this reason the devices located within the spire would be refurbished, but above all a team of technicians from the Polytechnic University of Milan would be assigned the task of conducting careful tests and taking thorough measurements.

The complex and delicate nature of the problem which emerged initiated an important collaboration between the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo and the Polytechnic University of Milan, which has remained uninterrupted to this day and was reconfirmed on 27 May 2015 with a new agreement.

In fact, on occasion of Expo Milano 2015 an agreement for a 3-year scientific collaboration was signed. Following the substantial renovations undertaken in order to present the Duomo in all of its splendour for the international exposition, the Veneranda Fabbrica’s first thought was to its preservation: something which will never be completed, but which presupposes on-going work on the monument, the international symbol of Milan.