Those familiar with the archives know all too well that the treasures preserved within are often disguised as simple documents. It is not only the richly decorated parchments or large registers that, line after line, convey history, but also the simple pieces of paper on which someone, at some point in the past, jotted down a quick note that was useful to the task at hand in that moment. With time, those few words become a fundamental clue in reconstructing the past, a small tile in the much larger mosaic of collective memory.
Such is the case for the document that we are presenting this month: a small piece of paper glued to the last page of the Duomo's construction log (AS cart. 476, fasc. 77). The latter, a ledger densely filled in by various individuals between 1814 and 1823, contains countless details regarding the work being done in the Cathedral during those years, subdivided according to the names of the workers employed. At the end, several random entries entitled “Other notes, memoranda" show the desire to remember certain events. Glued to this memorandum page is a small piece of paper, pictured here, in the centre of which is a very rough sketch of the famous plaque which, at the start of the Duomo's southern nave, reads “El principio dil domo di Milano fu nel anno 1386” [Construction of the Duomo di Milano began in 1386].
On this handwritten note, around the drawing, is written: “Plaque found mounted within a pillar in Cassina di Camposanto on 21 May 1816 and which Count Giovanni Luca della Somaglia has ordered be placed in a visible location within the Duomo." The assumed date of the note is 1821, as can be inferred by a subtraction jotted down at the bottom left: 1821-1386=435: the calculation of the years which separated the person who wrote the note from that distant beginning.
A great deal of time has passed since that note was written, and it has now been 631 years since construction of the Duomo began. The infinite Fabbrica continues in its work, knowing that its archives preserve a treasure that must be guarded and promoted so that knowledge of the Duomo, the international symbol of Milan, may be increasingly available to those for whom the Duomo is a part of life.