The Duomo's documents: a testament to a great collaboration

The Document of the Month, February 2017

As we have the opportunity to mention frequently, the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo's Archives preserve more than just historic-artistic and architectonic testaments to the Cathedral's history, but also documentary evidence of all the contributions, both large and small, that have contributed to the construction and maintenance of the Duomo over the centuries, for example donations in kind or in cash, often in the form of bequests. The Veneranda Fabbrica has carefully preserved the memory of every donor from 1387 to the present day.

The document that we are showing this month is a small parchment registry preserved in Chapter VI of the Historical Archives, or rather that entitled Religious Bequests. Those who, upon their death, donated all or part of their possessions to the Veneranda Fabbrica asked in return that a mass and other religious services be dedicated to the memory of their soles.

The registry, measuring approximately 20x30cm, is made up of forty-eight pages: a layout with ample margins and a light, hard point ruling, signs of a deliberate albeit simple elegance that is confirmed in the particularly formal handwriting of the incipit and of the oldest entries, where it even made us of some flourishes. The opening reads:

“Liber ordinum annualium que deputati Venerabilis Fabrice Ecclesie Maioris Mediolani fieri facere debent pro animabus diversarum personarum que in eorum conditis testamentis et ultimis voluntatibus seu donacionibus vigore quorum de eorum bonis relinquerunt vel donaverunt dicte fabrice fieri ordinaverunt ut inferius in isto lacius continetur”

The registered annals are divided according to the twelve months of the year and in the last part include an index in alphabetical order. For each month the various bequests are indicated, covering a time period between 1394 to 1508. This provides an interesting palaeographic overview.

Despite changes in customs and traditions over the centuries, the Veneranda Fabbrica has flawlessly maintained the same level of care and commitment to its donors, an act that is a manifestation of its gratitude towards those who have supported the Fabbrica in fulfilling this important task for the city of Milan and its residents. In fact, to this day the List of Donors includes the name of each benefactor, registered one by one, for posterity so as to celebrate the extraordinary collaboration that has made the Duomo di Milano what it is today. One of the most recent registries is on display in the The Duomo tells its story” photography exhibit, open to the public until 28 February 2017.