I have always been fond of visiting the Duomo of Milan with non-Italian friends, showing them this great piece of art (it IS really big). A couple of days ago I went back again with Costin, and shot some photos. Apart from the obvious beauty of the building, and the great historical and cultural significance that it helds, there are two-three observations that I always try to convey to my visitors:
It takes a very different attitude from today’s mindset geared towards quarterly results, and two-year mid-term election cycles to go ahead with a project that takes a couple of hundred years to complete. We have just one cathedral being built with the same principles and time perspective in Barcelona, and people are surprised, and outraged at the fact that in a hundred years it is not finished yet, without realizing that that is the way cathedrals are built. As you climb the roof of Duomo, which can be done only since thirty years or so, after half a millennium that the building is standing, you see hundreds of sculptures, thousands of carvings, in places where they were totally invisible for centuries. The completeness, and the perfection of the detail are astounding, very much unlike a Disneyworld scene which lets you glimpse the behind the scenes view as soon as you get off the pre-ordained track by a few steps. Not surprisingly so, since the “experience” of seeing the Duomo mostly wasn’t planned for humans but for the Christian God. Imagine being a medieval peasant, which you had 99% probability of being if you lived in the Middle Ages, living your life toiling the land, seeing and your children die one after the other. Then having, maybe just once in your life, for Easter, or the beatification of a saint, or Christmas, the opportunity of going to the Duomo, and approaching it from far away, with its bulk growing, and growing in a land of small buildings, dominating the view, and taking away you breath as you enter its huge internal space, and columnade, to follow mass. The only contemporaneous experience I can think of that would be similarly imposing is the take-off of the Space Shuttle from Cape canaveral.