27 Mar 2018

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered (29): The Cathedral of Milan

The proportions of a garden shed combined with the ostentation of the Babylonians.
The Cathedral of Milan is in many ways symptomatic of the Christian Delusion, a grandiose jabberwocky of a building, a realization in stone of the twisted, restless, tortured soul of this most conflicted and paradoxical of faiths, one that has never sat easily on the hearts of men, but has instead crushed its devotees like an incubus or drained them of life like a spiritual leech.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to the great Victorian architectural critic John Ruskin:
"Throughout the cathedral there are mixtures of stealing from every style in the world; and every style spoiled. One or two of the traceries have capitals to their shafts, but capitals of the most vile proportion; the niches are as base as base can be, absolute curled wigs of petty crockets, heavy and mean at the same time; some of the windows have them running up their jambs, but they look stuck full of extinguishers; others have steep canopies and finials in their traceries, as in Merton large east window, but so mixed with the absurd flamboyant that they are of no use; finally, the statues are all over of the worst possible common stonemason’s yard species, and look pinned on for show; the only redeeming character about the whole being the frequent use of the sharp gable ... which gives lightness, and the crowding of the spiry pinnacles into the sky."
The cathedral is such a concatenation of architectural absurdities because of a long and chequered history that is testament to the crime, sacrilege, and presumption that serves as the foundation of this unholy edifice. It is almost as if the continuous impetus to complete this building over the centuries has always faced an unseen adversary.

What that was, has not been clear until 2014 when it was disclosed that, as usual with such pompous Christian edifices, it had been profanely built on the ruins of an earlier pagan temple. This followed archaeological work exploring the old Roman city that found the remains of a temple of the Roman goddess Minerva under the basement of the building housing the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. The archaeological excavations had concentrated on uncovering the old forum of the Roman city:
"So far, part of the floor made out of what is known as 'Verona stone' has been found. The base of a section of an arcade can also be seen. The entire forum occupied an estimated surface area of 166 by 55 square meters. While waiting to be able to extend the excavations, the zone has been fitted with a special entrance on the side of the building, walkways, and illustrative signs to make visits by the public possible."
In the fourth century, as part of the effort to shore up the power of the failing Roman state, the old pluralistic and naturalistic religious traditions were subsumed into the arid, unnatural, and totalitarian creed of Christianity. It was at this time and in subsequent centuries that the rich pagan traditions of Europe were ploughed into the soil by this form of religious Communism. But the architectural schizophrenia of the Milanese Cathedral suggests that even architecture can suffer from bad karma.

Don't build on me!

No comments:

Post a Comment