The statue of the Madonna is the fulcrum that Milan revolves around. A symbol of history and tradition, she dominates in all her splendour from the lofty position on the main spire of “her” Duomo. In gracefully harmony, the sculpture in gilded copper laminate triumphs over the city and stands proudly at 4.16 metres tall.
Her upward gaze is like an act of imploration, requesting God’s blessing for the city.
The work was created by the sculptor Giuseppe Perego, the carver Giuseppe Antignani and the goldsmith Giuseppe Bini.
The statue, wrapped in cloth to protect it and conceal it from the public, was placed on the main spire in October 1774. The event went unmarked; there was no rite or celebration and not even a mention in the official documents of the Fabbrica Del Duomo, (Ecclesiastical Regulatory Institution) possibly in fear of an illuminati reaction that marked that particular period of history. The only official statement was the announcement on December 30th of the same year, made by the president of the council of the Fabbrica del Duomo: “The statue of the Madonna placed on top of the large spire merits universal acclaim”.
Nevertheless, in itself, the position of the statue on the top of the main spire has great significance because it concluded a series of accomplishments in the Duomo that celebrated the Assumption of the Virgin.
As for other parts of the cathedral, with the passing of time the statue had to undergo various restorations. In the ’60s the internal metal frame of the statue was discovered to be ruined due to the oxidisation that had affected its solidity and was substituted on July 28th 1967 with a replacement in stainless steel. The original frame is kept in the Museo del Duomo.
Giovanni D’Anzi wrote the famous song “Madonnina” dedicated to the statue of the Virgin on the Duomo. The origin of the song is interesting: it was composed in one night in his home in Milan and differentiated from the countless Neapolitan and Roman songs that abounded in the Thirties. It was an immediate success and many generations of Milanese have identified with the words and tune of this composition.
A historical anecdote: when the Madonna was hoisted up to the large spire Pietro Verri, scholar and politician, expressed fear that the heavy statue would make the church fall down and that the metal it was made with would attract bolts of lightening.
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