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Drawing of the main entrance portal of the Milan Cathedral

Document of the Month, March 2017

There is plenty of documentation conserved in the Archives of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo about all the work it has carried out on the Cathedral during the centuries of its existence in our city. For those interested in studying its endeavours down the years, the wide-range and variety of historical documentation safeguarded in its vaults clearly testifies to the great care and attention which has been given to almost every detail and feature of this wonderful monument.

The document we are suggesting curious visitors to our website take a look at this month is a drawing of the Cathedral’s main entrance portal, attached to the second contract drawn up with the sculptor Lodovico Pogliaghi (1857-1959) in 1902.

Pogliaghi won a competition to design the bronze imposts of the main portal in 1895 and the first contract was drawn up in 1896. However, this contract stipulated that the imposts should be incorporated in the main portal of the neo-Gothic facade designed by the architect Giuseppe Brentano (1862-1899), an entrance portal composed of two doors separated by a central column, as is found in countless examples of the Nordic Gothic style. The passing away of the young architect and financial problems meant that the Administration of the Fabbrica soon decided to abandon the project to rebuild the Cathedral’s facade, and was also forced to revise its plans for the new bronze imposts that were to be adapted to the existing central portal constructed in the 17th-century based on a late-Mannerist design by Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527-1596).

The second contract that Pogliaghi signed on 10th July, 1902, finalised the design of the Cathedral’s main portal as it is today, composed of two doors depicting the Holy Mother’s joy and suffering and a huge fixed transom – designed to cover the empty space at the top – portraying an image of the Crowning of the Virgin Mary.

Examining the drawing shown in the photograph, you can see an unusual detail; Pogliaghi’s bronze door has been fitted by gluing it to the rear of the base panel at the opening of Pellegrini’s main portal. This corresponds to precisely what did, later, happen.