The Archives reborn

The Duomo of Milan: the most beautiful portrait of the city

This extraordinary masterpiece, the fruit of Milanese and European industriousness, is not the result of the work of one artist alone. For generations, the people of Milan have applied brush stroke after careful brush stroke to shape the cathedral, a formidable treasure chest of faith and art. They’ve painted a portrait, working in a mixed-media of the emotions, fears, joys, and tensions belonging to the men throughout history. These are the irreplaceable elements of that great painting in marble which is the Duomo. 

And if the cathedral represents the most beautiful painting in the city, the Veneranda Fabbrica tells its most fascinating story: that of the Milanese people. Selflessly overcoming obstacles and collecting the contribution of each citizen, in the 629 years since its foundation the Veneranda Fabbrica has etched an eternal challenge in the marble of the monument, while creating a masterpiece that does not have just one author but belongs to all.

Today this story, old and at the same time always new, lives on within the Archives of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo. Diary of the city since 1387, after an important restoration it opened its doors again to the public on 30 May 2016. With triple the space, the Archives are now equipped with the most advanced technology to provide greater accessibility to the scholars and citizens who wish to trace the steps of Milan over the centuries.  It is here, in fact, that the most valuable documents of Milanese identity are conserved, and it is here that the larger story is interwoven with the daily life of each resident of Milan to ever populate the city streets. This is where Napoleon and a stonemason meet, binding together that complex bundle that brought Milan to become an Italian - and European - metropolis.

The restauration, originally presented 4 November 2013, was officially completed with the inauguration of the new study room dedicated to the people of Milan. The space is an exceptional context directly facing the apse of the Duomo, a few metres from the delicate flying buttresses of the northeast apsidal wall, the place where the incredible enterprise of building the cathedral began. Here scholars and researchers can trace the centuries-old story of the Duomo and of the Fabbrica while almost touching the monument itself.

By that date, the new storage areas designated to house the historic Archives, the Music Section, Registers and Chapter Ordinations had already been built. The ample location, in compliance with safety regulations, offers the best conditions for the conservation of this inestimable heritage and, with motorized shelving, is easy for the Archives’ staff to use.

After 2013, work continued on both the conservation of existing spaces and the opening of new ones, intended for consultation and the public’s general use of the Fabbrica, located in the city centre. On 30 May 2016, the city and her citizens were presented with a renovated area that, extending to the Sala dei Milanesi, reaches the very heart of the Veneranda Fabbrica.

Alongside this visible area, in recent years the Veneranda Fabbrica has looked to complete spaces to use for the safekeeping of the Archives. The Storage Archive has been relocated to an environment equipped for expansion, furnished with moveable shelves that allow a more rational use of the space.

The storage area previously inaugurated in 2013, where the Photo Archives and historic Drawings are located, will also see some changes. As of May, they will be optimally stored in metal flat files