TOWARD THE 2012 MEETING/The People and the CathedralIf there is a work that in our history completely expresses the nature of man as relationship to the infinite, it is the cathedral. The history of the construction of the Milan Cathedral, built thanks to donations from thousands of men and women, from the
By Martina Saltamacchia and Mariella Carlotti
In the summer of 1386 in the historic center of Milan work begun to construct a new, majestic cathedral that aimed to be the greatest in the world. The groundbreaking of this monumental project was announced by a powerful man, the lord of the city Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who granted the Fabbrica of the Duomo the right to use the marble quarry of Candoglia, near Lake Maggiore, and exemption from taxes for the transportation of blocks. To ease their recognition, the blocks were marked with the abbreviation AUF: Ad Usum Fabricae. From this gratuity, which in the course of the centuries marked the history of the construction, starts the idea of the exhibit proposed for the 2012 Meeting by the Company of Works in collaboration with the venerable Fabbrica of the Cathedral of Milan (which will loan some of its precious pieces for the occasion). In the last couple of years the Meeting space of the Company of Works has been filled with an exhibit that retraces in tradition a meaningful example of the themes dear to the Association, in the attempt to express them through the suggestive language of art. This year the exhibit choice is particularly tied to the title of the Meeting: if there is a work in our history that fully expresses the nature of man as relationship to the infinite, it is the cathedral. We decided to talk about the construction of the Milan Cathedral, a cathedral for which it is possible to retrace in a very detailed manner the relationship between the people and their city, its building site, and the stories of the men who built it.
From the beginning of the work, there was an extraordinary participation of thousands of citizens coming from every profession and social class who crowded the main altar of the church to bring their own offering: a coin, a precious tiara, a piece of cheese. The voluminous record books of donations reveal stories of men and women who partook in the construction with what they had: the rich merchant who bequeathed everything, the prostitutes who offered a tenth of their night work, the old lady who gave the pelt coat with which she shielded from the cold. On the other hand, the contribution of the building site of the cathedral to the city was also great, first of all as a large company that employed up to 4000 people. Numerous foreign masters came to the Lombard city bringing new ideas and tools. New technological innovations were developed, architectural experiments were attempted, and new machines and instruments were created. To facilitate the transportation of the marble blocks, a grand infrastructure was built by strengthening the navigation network from Lake Maggiore to the city canals in the heart of Milan. It took centuries before work was completed. The men who spent their energies and possessions in the construction knew well that they were giving everything for a work they would have never seen complete. This is the kind of heart we need in order to face the challenge that the difficult moment we are living in is posing to us.