Documento Mese Marzo 2016

Coal, iron, and wine for the Duomo: from the Fabbrica's ancient logs

Document for March 2016

The construction of the Duomo, while certainly desired and supported by the Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo and by the duke of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, in a fluctuating balance of relationships and attempts, was largely due to the extraordinary energy of the Milanese people, whose fierce desire for this new church is evident in the extraordinary and incessant quantity of donations received by the Veneranda Fabbrica in the first decades of its existence.

Every donation, even the smallest and seemingly insignificant, was diligently recorded in the Fabbrica's logs, in which the officials charged with this task wrote down, day after day, the donations collected not only at the location where the cathedral was to be erected, but also at the gates of the city. What emerges from these logs is the image of an incredibly fascinating vitality: donors from every social background contributed in varying degrees to the construction of the new church, not only through monetary donations, but also through donations of various goods which were then either sold by the Fabbrica or, when possible, used at the construction site.

In log n.534, the incipit of which is shown here in the photo, sums of money and material offerings from the year 1400 are written down, divided by chapter according to the type of good donated. At the front an index guides modern researchers through a precise system of references, at the time used for fully functional bookkeeping. And here, after the smallest sums offered by citizens, are listed iron, timber, other metals, and even wine and clothing.

The log, made up of 287 files, has, as often happens in the numerous and precious logs of the Veneranda Fabbrica, double page numbers: the first, coeval and in Roman numerals, is located in the upper right hand corner of each page and does not include the index's  bifolium, which, unlike the rest of the log, is on parchment; the second numbering, on the other hand, is stamped on the bottom right hand corner.

As is the case for the entire series of logs, this one too is notable for the excellent quality of the paper used, something which allowed this log, along with the care taken by the Fabbrica throughout the centuries, to survive up to the present day as a testimonial to the city of Milan's concerted effort, orchestrated by the skilful management of the Fabbrica, in erecting its Duomo.