Does anyone know the inscriptions on the doors of the Milan Cathedral?
October 9, 2016 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I've read online that over the triple doorways of Milan Cathedral are three inscriptions spanning the arches. Above one is carved a wreath of roses, with the words, “All that pleases is but for a moment.” Over the second is a cross, with the words, “All that troubles is but for a moment.” Underneath the great central entrance to the main aisle is inscribed: “That only is important which is eternal.” I presume the inscriptions are in latin or something. Can someone confirm, and provide the exact wording in latin?

I've tried searching for images of the doors, but to no avail.
posted by hellomina to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This has a very strong whiff of modern-inspirational/Christianity tosh to it. Note the mindless source-free parroting of elevated language in the Google hits that allegedly report it. I would be quite suspicious that it is not true.

(There are five main doors to the Milan Cathedral.)
posted by praemunire at 8:06 PM on October 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


a google image search on milan cathedral entrance inscription looks like it has several doors with readable latin text
posted by zippy at 8:08 PM on October 9, 2016


The story surprisingly goes as far back as 1879 (!), printed on p. 790 of the October 4, 1879 edition of Notre Dame's Ave Maria, a journal dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mary.

As praemunire points out, though, the story is likely false: a) Milan's cathedral has five entrances, b) none of them have any inscriptions, and c) the original plans for the doorways also don't have any inscriptions.

There is some confusion here because the cathedral's facade was only completed under Napoleon and so it is possible that there were inscriptions prior to the 19th century, but apparently the existing doors were the only part of the original 16th century plan there were actually built then.

I think if there is any hint of truth in the story, it must refer to some other part of the Milan cathedral or another cathedral altogether, but I suspect it's just made up.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:44 PM on October 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I have a coffee table book of Il Duomo di Milano because it is my favorite, and I can't make out any words around the doors. Mark Twain also mentioned no words in his description of the doorways ("The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures--and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest.")

The doors themselves, and their doorways, are very ornate, and the doors have some Latin and Hebrew on them, but the Latin is mostly "Christ the King" sort of stuff and the Hebrew is commandments on tablets.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:52 PM on October 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


hellomina, what you read is completely made up, there are no such phrases inscribed on the doors of the Milan Duomo. There are no inscriptions at all there, actually!

There is only a very prominent dedication on the facade, above the doors, "Mariae Nascenti".

Inside the cathedral, there are a few dates or memorial/dedications inscribed for specific elements (if you search the wikipedia Italian page for "scritta" or "iscrizione" you will see them - if you google "milano duomo porte scritta" you will instead find articles about someone spray painting the doors a while ago...).

a google image search on milan cathedral entrance inscription looks like it has several doors with readable latin text

No, it’s only very detailed relief work. See these images, and this.

The doors themselves, and their doorways, are very ornate, and the doors have some Latin and Hebrew on them, but the Latin is mostly "Christ the King" sort of stuff and the Hebrew is commandments on tablets.

This is confusing, where does this come from? Could it be another cathedral you’re thinking of? Never seen or heard or read of any Hebrew or commandments on tablets in there.

What are you all talking about really? :)

(ps - only now saw the reply by crazy with stars - exactly!! thanks, phew, for a moment I doubted my own eyes and memories)
posted by bitteschoen at 12:32 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a Moses panel with commandment tablets on the highly detailed bronze door sculptures! And some random Latin inscriptions on various panels. But nothing like the OP is talking about. (Also I'm not sure if any of the ones with letters/words are visible from street level, I studied them in ultra close up photos for their imagery in grad school.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:00 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee - ahh ok you were talking of the details of the relief within the panels, I get it now - that is very interesting, I bet there aren’t many people who spontaneously spotted anything like that in there! It’s all so overwhelming and the door panels are just one tiny part of the overwhelming amount of relief and sculptures and details everywhere, yeah I don’t think it’s visible to anyone who doesn’t know what to look for or isn’t deliberately studying the panels at that level of detail. Very cool, thanks for the explanation.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:44 PM on October 10, 2016


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