Documento Mese Gennaio2017

Never Before Seen Ancient Documents from the Fabbrica's Archives Milan Tells Its Story

The Document of the Month of January 2017

The Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo's Archives, today visited by numerous Italian and foreign academics interested in the extraordinary historical documents it preserves, has always been well cared for. Even in the past it was a destination for those looking to research not only the history of Milan's spectacular cathedral, but also, and more generally, the art history of Lombardy and Milan.

The document we are presenting this month is a consultation request, as interesting as it is old, which Abbot Antonio Albuzzi (1738-1802) sent to the president and members of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo. The origin of the request, dated 24 July 1773 (AVFD, AS 481, fasc. 7), was the assignment received by Albuzzi from the Austro-Hungarian government, in the person of Count Firmian, to compile a history of Milanese painters, sculptors, and architects.

Therefore, in 1773, the erudite Albuzzi wrote to the Veneranda Fabbrica requesting permission to freely examine those books in the Veneranda Fabbrica's Archives that could assist him in describing the history of Milan's art and artists. The books that Albuzzi hinted at were the precious volumes of the Ordinazioni Capitolari [Chapter Ordinances], or rather the collection of minutes from the Chapter's meetings, now the Board of Directors.

Now as then, these volumes are an extraordinarily interesting piece of history, most importantly because of the chronological continuity which the Veneranda Fabbrica was able to preserve: in fact, the series is without interruption from the end of the 14th century up to the present day.

Albuzzi's in-depth research, which examined other archives in Milan as well, led to the creation of the important manuscript preserved in the Library of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, entitled "Memoirs for the History of Milan Painters, Sculptors and Architects". As the first critical edition of the manuscript, published by Stefano Bruzzese in 2015, claims: "This is the first attempt at reconstructing the history of the old artistic schools in Lombardy and, above all, in Milan, a city which, as opposed to other major Italian cities, still lacks a true artistic historiography. […] Albuzzi's 'Memoirs' are an innovative text from a methodological stand point, and reflect a combination of ancient knowledge and universal aspirations of the time."

As in the now distant 18th century, the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo's Archives maintain open access to researchers and scholars to this day.