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Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble

Even in a city with La Scala, the glorious opera house, Milan Cathedral is undoubtedly the most popular landmark in Italy’s fashion and financial capital.

But the Duomo, as it’s known, has also been an extraordinarily high-maintenance icon for six centuries, requiring constant tending essentially since construction began in 1386.

The cathedral, along with the 3,400 or so statues and carvings adorning its myriad nooks and crannies, as well as its buttresses and battlements and spiers, is made of rare pink marble, mined from a single quarry on the slopes of the Alps some 60 miles, is dismantled to the north.

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

The Duomo has around 3,400 statues and carvings among its wealth of buttresses, battlements and towers. Photos: FABIO BUCCIARELLI/nyt

The unique physical and chemical properties of the stone make it particularly beautiful. But the breathtaking coloring also has a flaw: the marble is particularly fragile.

“The marble can break suddenly,” said Francesco Canali, construction manager for the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, the association responsible for the monument’s restoration and preservation since 1387.

Veins in marble contain traces of ferrous materials, and when they, or the iron pins attached to join the stones together over the centuries, oxidize, they expand and break the marble into “small pieces or even chunks.” ‘ explained Mr Canali.

Climate change and pollution add to the challenges. “The interaction with the environment has left profound consequences,” said Mr. Canali, an engineer by training.

The record-breaking heat waves of recent summers mean that temperature differences between the parts of the cathedral that are most exposed to the sun and those that are shaded to the north can put additional stress on the monument.

Pollutants like nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide form black crusts on the marble, “like tartar, which presupposes tooth decay,” Mr Canali said.

The cost of all this cleaning and maintenance work has always been high, and now the cathedral, which its archpriest Rev. Gianantonio Borgonovo is fond of saying “belongs to the Milanese,” has sought to match private sector aid by a chunk to cover the non-stop costs.

This has led to an “Adopt a Statue” program, which allows companies to fund the restoration of one of the cathedral’s thousands of statues in exchange for taking it home to display for three years.

An impressive marble statue of King David with a harp was proudly displayed in a company atrium.

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

Originals replaced by copies over the years in the statue cemetery in Milan. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

Until the 1960s, the marble statue of the biblical king, carved by an unknown sculptor in the first half of the 16th century, adorned the Gothic cathedral in the center of the city. But after spending decades in a restoration workshop, part of the statue’s repair was paid for by a Milan-based adhesives and chemical products company.

“We thought that a Milanese company just had to have a little piece of the Duomo, so it seemed like a wonderful and iconic project,” said Veronica Squinzi, CEO of the Mapei company.

The Duomo was officially completed in 1965, 579 years after construction began, which explains the Italian saying for something infinite: “There comes la fabbrica del Duomo‘, or ‘like the building of the cathedral’.

But the continuing need for marble for repair work was good news for the quarry in Candoglia, a hamlet of 200 inhabitants that has managed to stay operational thanks to its only customer.

“There is always a lot of work,” says Marco Scolari, who oversees the Candoglia quarry and its marble restoration workshops, of which there are two, one in Candoglia and the other in Milan.

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

Visitors on a high terrace at the Duomo. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

Veneranda Fabbrica experts are closely monitoring the Duomo’s structural health, with the entire monument wired to sensors that provide constant digital readings of various kinds, “like a constantly working electrocardiogram,” Mr Canali said.

The statues and decorative elements of the cathedral are also physically examined twice a year by specialized workers who swing on cranes to check for breaks and cracks.

If repairs are necessary, the marble is now pre-machined, but specialized training is still required for the stoneworkers, who are called upon to recreate the handwork of long-dead sculptors. “The human hand is essential,” said Mr. Scolari.

Fabio Belloni, a stone sculptor at the Milan laboratory, said he once spent 18 months working on a single block on the Duomo’s facade.

“You have to know the material, where to put your hands, there can’t be any margin for error,” Mr Belloni said. “It takes patience,” he added, and one wrong move “could give away months of work.”

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

A group explores the roof area of ​​the labyrinthine structure. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

Much of the Duomo’s decorative stonework dates from the last two centuries, a brisk activity that followed the completion of the façade – Napoleon Bonaparte insisted it be completed by 1805 so that he would have a suitable setting for his coronation as King of Italy.

The Milanese of that time did not adopt this façade, but it did not prevent them from loving their cathedral. For years, the work of the Veneranda Fabbrica was subsidized by donations and legacies from wealthy Milanese, but also by locals of more modest means who deposited valuables in boxes on the site, which were then auctioned off.

Just a century ago there was a café at the top of the Duomo where Milanese would meet to socialize and gossip.

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

In the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, which has been restoring the Duomo since 1387. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

On site, the cathedral builders discovered that the saffron they used to yellow stained glass had a savory secondary purpose when added to the vats of the risotto cooked for lunch, now known as Risotto alla Milanese.

“The Duomo has always been the home of the Milanese,” said Fulvio Pravadelli, general manager of the Veneranda Fabbrica.

While saints and martyrs have dominated as favored subjects for centuries, carvers have snuck in more modern figures over the years, including boxer Primo Carnera, a 1930s heavyweight champion of the world, and even a small head of Abraham Lincoln.

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

Artisans make replacement pieces out of marble. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

Hundreds of statues and decorative motifs have been replaced over time, with the originals ending up in a replacement cemetery on the outskirts of town.

For the stone carvers in Milan and Candoglia, even the smallest decoration, which can take months to replicate, is worth the effort.

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

Cava Madre (mother quarry), where marble is quarried for restoration work on the Duomo, in Candoglia, Italy. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

“The beauty of our work is to bring something out of a piece of marble that wasn’t there,” said Paolo Sabbadini, a stonemason at the Candoglia lab, who said he would do it if a piece he was replicating was particularly worn to add a personal touch to the decoration, although he knew that at hundreds of meters in the air it would probably not be noticed “even with a zoom lens”.

“But theoretically we’re not working for ourselves,” Mr Sabbadini said. “It has to be done well, even if you don’t see it, otherwise we wouldn’t have a reason to be here.”

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

Craftsmen carry out renovation preparations in a workshop. FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

Milan Cathedral is still revered despite the trouble, Crypto Trading News

Marble blocks from Cava Madre (mother quarry). FABIO BUCCIARELLI/The New York Times

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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