They welcome the visitors who catch a glimpse upon entering the Grande Museo del Duomo and they accompany them at the end of their visit. They are the wooden models of the Cathedral's façades, precious and rare testaments to study and design, of unfathomable historic and artistic value. There are four of them and not one of them corresponds to the façade that we are used to admiring from the piazza.
At one time models were indispensable technical tools for the construction of a major project like the Duomo.
Using them, the Fabbrica could conduct static load trials, as well as design architectural elements. Of the many models produced for the construction of the Duomo during its first century of activity, there remain traces of only one in the Archives' documents.
In 1519 the builders decided to construct the Modellone [big model] which, updated and modified through the years, served for centuries as an instrument of study for the construction of the Duomo. Next to this impressive model in 1:20 scale present in the museum, one can also admire three separate design projects for the façade which, in the following centuries, were carved so as to be tried out on the model and then evaluated.
A process involving architectural design, artisan expertise, and reflection thus accompanied these pieces. From intricate woodwork, they became tools for the evaluation and "trial run" of the Cathedral's construction.
The façade that today occupies the front of this magnificent and majestic model shows the renovation planned for the same one designed by architect Giuseppe Brentano in 1891 and never carried out, almost eighty years after the completion of the façade insisted upon by Napoleon.