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Milan Cathedral Treasury

Gold and enamel panel from the Pax of Ariberto (c.1030). View all images in our Milan Cathedral Treasury Photo Gallery.
Detail of the Pax of Ariberto: the Eagle, symbol of St. John the Evangelist.
One panel of the Five Part Diptych.
Detail of the Five Part Diptych: the Raising of Lazarus.
Holy Water Vessel (before 980 AD).

Located in a small room of the crypt in the Duomo, the Cathedral Treasury of Milan is a must-see for its medieval treasures.

What to See

Displayed in a glass case with Italian and English labeling, the collection includes some magnificent artworks from the Early Christian and Romanesque periods as well as reliquaries and richly-embroidered vestments. See our Milan Cathedral Treasury Photo Gallery for a closer look at these magnificent treasures; some of the most notable artworks are described below.

The so-called "Pax of Ariberto" was created around 1030 or 1040 and given to the Duomo by Archbishop Ariberto. It consists of two panels: the more elaborate one was used to decorate the box in which the cathedral's Gospel book was kept, while the other covered the Gospel book itself. In the 12th century it became part of a "Pax," a panel with a handle that was presented during the ritual of the kiss of peace.

The main panel is covered in gold and decorated with 18 enamel plates and 134 precious stones. In the center is a crucifix against a backdrop of deep green, with the words LUXMUNDI ("Light of the World") written in gold above the head of Christ. In this representation Christ is shown dead, with his head bowed and eyes closed.

Flanking the cross as usual are the Virgin Mary and St. John as well as two soldiers with spears. The enamel panel above the crucifix shows the Ascension of Christ, observed by the Twelve Apostles in two separate panels. The four corners have medallions with the symbols of the Evangelists. Two smaller medallions at the top have busts of uncertain (to me) persons.

The panel to the left of the cross shows a women at the empty tomb, greeted by an angel, while the panel to the right shows the Good Thief being led into Paradise by Christ. Below the cross is the Harrowing of Hell, flanked by St. Ambrose (left) and his brother St. Satirus (right).


The other panel is divided into two parts. Archbishop Ariberto, with John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, presents the Gospel book to Christ in the upper half. Below are the saints Ambrose, Protasio and Gervaise.

Called the "Five-Part Diptych" because each panel is divided into five plates, this beautifully carved Gospel book cover dates from the late 5th or early 6th century. It was probably made in Ravenna, as there are notable similarities in the iconography with 5th-century sarcophagi and early 6th-century mosaics of Christ in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. It may have been a gift from the Byzantine emperor.

By the 12th century it was no longer used as a book cover, but in the Vespers liturgy of Easter processions. After 1400 it was used as part of a "Pax," a metal plate with a handle presented during the kiss of peace ritual. One panel centers on a cross made of gems; the other has a Lamb of God.

This ivory holy water vessel was specially made for the visit of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II to Milan in 980 AD. It was made by Lombard artists but shows strong Ottonian influences. Deep reliefs on the side of the cup depict the Four Evangelists with their attributes and the Madonna and Child; each figure is seated beneath an arch with an inscription. The Latin dedicatory inscription runs along the rim of the vessel.

Quick Facts on Milan Cathedral Treasury

Site Information
Names:Cathedral Treasury; Milan Cathedral Treasury; Tesoro del Duomo
City:Milan
State:Lombardy
Country:Italy
Categories:Museums
Styles:Byzantine; Romanesque
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Milan, Italy
Coordinates:45.464450° N, 9.191834° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Milan Cathedral Treasury

Below is a location map and aerial view of Milan Cathedral Treasury. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (May 12, 2008).
  2. The Treasure - official website of the Duomo
  3. Milano, Tesoro del Duomo - Thais.it
  4. Fernando Lanzi, Gioia Lanzi, Matthew J. O'Connell, Saints and Their Symbols (Liturgical Press, 2004), 52. On the enamel of Dismas the Good Thief on the Pax of Ariberto.

More Information

Article Info

Title:Milan Cathedral Treasury
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:08/02/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/milan-treasury/italy/milan-cathedral
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