Eagerly awaited by all the citizens of Milan, this year the feast of San Carlo Borromeo, on 4 November 2013, was a historical day for the city and marked an important step forward for the Veneranda Fabbrica which, with the inauguration of the New Grande Museo del Duomo and the refurbished Archives, has written a new chapter of its history.
The inauguration began at 16:30 with a presentation to the press of the Fabbrica's extremely valuable Archives, a living store of cultural records that is of incalculable value for the citizens of Milan, Lombardy and the whole world.
These archives serve as a diary of the city which, by recording its history day after day since 1387 through its Duomo, gives major and minor accounts of every epoch linked to the construction and life of the Cathedral and of the Milanese people through the centuries.
The speakers at the presentation were Prof. Angelo Caloia, President of the Veneranda Fabbrica, Mons. Gianantonio Borgonovo, Dean of the Duomo of Milan, Prof. ssa Paola Vismara, member of the Board of Directors and Prof. Philippe Daverio.
The Fabbrica, faithful guardian of Milan's identity and values, decided on this major project to refurbish this treasure chest of personal stories which form the very identity of the city, and will include the future digitisation and computerisation of its documentary assets.
Within two years, the Fabbrica will make this immense documentary heritage fully accessible and usable, using technological innovation to make it available for research, by digitising the documents and computerising the index tools, thus permitting remote access to the documents too.
With this refurbishment, it will be possible to use a dedicated entrance to the new premises, which will look out onto the apse of the Duomo, thus maintaining visual contact too between the Monument and over half a million folders dating from the 14th century to the present day, the living memory of the work of dozens of generations.
The Archives thus become the ideal crossroads for countless cultural paths that allow the city to cultivate all its expressions, the visible evidence of a newly rediscovered taste for knowledge and a treasure for the generations to come.
After the visit reserved for the press, at 19:30 the inauguration of the Grande Museo del Duomo began with the ribbon cutting ceremony in the presence of the authorities, including the President of the Veneranda Fabbrica Prof. Angelo Caloia, the Archbishop of Milan, His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Prefect of Milan Dott. Francesco Paolo Tronca, the President of the Lombardy Region the Honourable Avv. Roberto Maroni, the President of the Province of Milan the Honourable Dott. Guido Podestà, the Mayor of Milan the Honourable Avv. Giuliano Pisapia, the Sole Commissioner Delegated by the Government for Expo Milan 2015 and Managing Director of Expo 2015 S.p.A. Dott. Giuseppe Sala, the designer of the Grande Museo Arch. Guido Canali and Arch. Giovanni Battista Sannazzaro representing the Architectural and Landscape Heritage Office of Lombardy.
After three years of restoration, as well as the work of fifteen work sites open on the Main Spire and on the Duomo itself, the Grande Museo del Duomo is now housed in Palazzo Reale, in an area made available by the Municipality of Milan, with totally upgraded architectural facilities and a completely new layout, where the Cathedral's Treasure and the museum's collections are on show in 27 rooms, with 13 thematic areas and over 2000 sq. m. of exhibition space.
A conference was then held in the Sala delle Colonne, in the presence of the highest civil, military and religious authorities of the city and all those who have supported the Grande Museo.
“Milan has once again taken possession of its history, receiving a huge gift that we are proud to offer today to the city that will host Expo 2015. This moment which the Veneranda Fabbrica is living with the city means offering a warm welcome, opening the city up to the world to create a network of relations with the millions of visitors who are expected to arrive and speaking the language of our children, to continue to write the never-ending story of Milan and its Duomo, beyond all time,” said Prof. Angelo Caloia, President of the Veneranda Fabbrica.
His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan had this to say: "The Duomo is truly a Cathedral that is able to listen and speak to the men of all eras. For the faithful of Milan, for believers in other faiths and religions, for non-believers and people with different cultural visions, for everyone of them the Duomo represents a centre. I hope that all the Italian and international educational organisations will be able to find great benefit from this process, and it will be very important to take young people and children to see it: for them it will be an extraordinary educational opportunity. We have blessed these premises, even though they are civil, because the reference to God which is evident in each of the thousands of exhibits is an extraordinary opportunity to draw closer, through beauty, to goodness and truth".
"It is not so very often that people who have differing faiths and ideas come together to celebrate a major museum that tells over six centuries of history. It is a gift and an enormous result that goes beyond all expectations, and it is even more important at this time in which we need to strive, all of us together, to relaunch Milan, with regard to its work, trade and economy. It is rightly called 'grand’, because it excels and is, will be, equal to the major Museums in Milan. It is a jewel that we must enrich, before and after Expo. This is the commitment of our administration and of all those who love this city," said the Mayor of Milan, the Honourable Avv. Giuliano Pisapia to mark this occasion.
For the President of the Lombardy Region, the Honourable Avv. Roberto Maroni, the attention and contribution of all the institutions to the history of the Duomo is essential, it is "a centuries-old history made up of art, intelligence and devotion, fundamental for Milan and for all citizens of Lombardy. For this reason," he continued, "the Region has committed to contribute with an agreement for restoration and enhancement of the Cathedral. In the coming months, Milan will have an extraordinary role as the capital of Europe; the eyes of the world will be looking at us, and we cannot miss this opportunity, nor do we intend to".
In confirmation of the words of the President of the Lombardy Region, the President of the Province of Milan, the Honourable Dr. Guido Podestà added: "We know that these times are not easy, but this is a sign of hope and a formidable commitment, also in view of the upcoming Expo event, and this is why we feel committed to giving our utmost".
Two proposals came from the Commissioner delegated by the Government for Expo 2015, Dr. Giuseppe Sala: "We will ask the Countries taking part in Expo to adopt a Spire, as a sign of their participation: The second is my own proposal: the idea of a new external lift that will allow people to admire the city from above".
Arch. Guido Canali, the designer of the Grande Museo del Duomo, illustrated the most significant characteristics of this design: "Our aim was to show Duomo as much as possible, without dwelling only on the canonised elements such as the statuary, but collecting decorative items, fragments, from the spouts of the pinnacles to the paving, all of them elements that give both a visual and tactile sensation that the Duomo is a huge construction made up of very many parts. People today have stopped visiting museums, but it is also true that museums are often boring. On the contrary, they should be a fascinating and intriguing places".
The contribution by Arch. Giovanni Battista Sannazzaro, representing the Architectural and Landscape Heritage Office of Lombardy included greetings from the Head of the Office Arch. Alberto Artioli and described the lines of action followed for the creation of the Grande Museo del Duomo together with the Veneranda Fabbrica.
The inaugural ceremonies continued at the Duomo with “History that made History”, a spectacular and technologically advanced video mapping show, a multi-sensory journey and an alliance between art, culture and digital technology, to become itself a work of art, promoted by the Veneranda Fabbrica in collaboration with SBH, in which over three thousand people took part.
The projections and the sound vibrations, specially composed for the cathedral’s sound amplitude and its acoustics, created an inter-dimensional space and time effect in which the people present were transported to a place without boundaries, a combination of past, present and future.
"While the spirit which has inspired and governed the work of the Veneranda Fabbrica has not changed in over half a millennium, the languages and the way in which it communicates with the contemporary scene have changed. The Veneranda Fabbrica is making use of the most advanced technologies to make its work increasingly more modern and ever more well-known on the international scene," said the President Prof. Angelo Caloia.
A day that will go down in the history of Milan and of the Veneranda Fabbrica.