Milan | Duomo – Why the caryatid hall needs to be restored

As he reported Thomas Villa in his article the author attribute July last year, Milan deserves a full recovery hall of caryatids Royal Palace.

In short, a bit like what happens in some European countries, such as Germany and Poland, tormented during the war by the fact that their ancient cities were destroyed or razed to the ground and where, also at the will of the citizens, some buildings of a certain importance, have been or are in the process of being restored. Thus, we have a partially reconstructed historical center of Warsaw, Dresden, Frankfurt and even the completed Berlin Castle. Cities like Dresden, razed to the ground and now almost completely rebuilt, have regained their lost soul, as well as tourism, because, after all, this is not the effect to be feared. Disneylandbut I think it’s something deep, like discovering your roots that the war tried to steal and erase.

The same thing happened in Milan almost eighty years ago: August 15 and 16, 1943 were one of the most tragic days the city has ever faced. As many as 140 RAF Lancaster bombers hit the center hard, dropping over 500 tons of bombs. The most important victims of the historical and artistic heritage were the Sforzesco Castle, the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, the Verme Theater, the Scala Theater and, above all, Royal Palace.

Here are some photos of the hall before the bombings of 1943.

The bombing strategy at the time was to try to create “firestorms” that allowed the flames to self-feed by sucking in oxygen, resulting in much more destruction than could be achieved with bombs alone. For this reason, incendiary fragments were also dropped, which were used to fuel and spread the flames.

The target was the Duomo, but the shots hit Rinascente, Scala and the Royal Palace, where one of these fragments fell right on the roof near the Sala delle Cariatidi. The fire easily spread through this forest of wooden trusses, causing the roof over the hall to collapse.bringing with them the most magnificent paintings, stuccos and decorations of Milanese neoclassicalism, including frescoes Apotheosis of Ferdinand I Francesco Ayez, taken in 1838.

Unfortunately, the worst disaster was caused by the authorities of that time, no doubt saturated with much bigger problems, but completely ignoring the shelter of the remnants of trophies from natural disasters such as rain, wind and snow (there was a lot of snow at that time). in Milan). So bad weather and humidity damaged the Giocondo Albertolli stucco and beautiful statues. forty caryatids by the sculptors Callani and Franchiwhich gave the name to the whole room.

The Palazzo Reale was the symbol of the Austrians, the rulers and the Ancien Regime that led to the tragedy of fascism, and it was undoubtedly closely associated with the Royal House of Savoy.

While La Scala Theater it was quickly rebuilt, so much so that on May 11, 1946 it reopened with Magpie producer Arturo ToscaniniThe Palazzo Reale was renovated with the first roof only in 1947, four years after the bombing, leaving precisely the halls and the Hall of Cariatidi to any storm.

Since then, the Royal Palace, and consequently the Salone delle Cariatidi, have remained in limbo, losing importance and gradually becoming offices and exhibition spaces that have gradually eliminated any mention of the old palace, designed in 1778 by the architect. Giuseppe Piermarinia brilliant student of Luigi Vanvitelli.

It was only in the 2000s that we started and seriously tried to restore the restored and give shape to the interior spaces of the building. Since then, many rooms have been restored, as far as possible, with new furniture and tapestries, although, it must be said, with “modern” inserts, which once again testifies to the lack of desire to return to their ancient splendor.

And hall of caryatids? What would happen if he was returned to his former glory? Why does this stubborn will not bring her back to what it was before the war?

Many argue that today, at least in Italy, there are no false historians. However, this is not the case, given that over time important buildings have been rebuilt, such as the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, just like the abbey of Montecassino, always destroyed during the Second World War, as well as more recent ones, such as the Teatro La Fenice. in Venice after the stake, or like the Petruzzelli theater in Bari, all buildings were rebuilt “as they were and where they were” according to their inherent artistic value.

The hall of the Caryatids, it must be said, is a room of truly unheard of dimensions for all of Europe: its length was forty-six meters, its width was seventeen, and the total area was 782 square meters, even more. than the famous Galerie des Glaces of the Palace of Versailles, whose area “only” is 766 square meters. The furnishings were sumptuous and regal and must have resembled the Grand Gallery of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, the main palace of the Habsburg court.

Today, the great hall is used for events or exhibitions related to the Royal Palace. It appears in all its decadent splendor, where the illusion of contemplating the devastation of the war should remind us of the evil of those events, even if, as we have said, more than the devastation from the bombing, the current state of the statues and decorations is due to the negligence of the administrators of that time.

Therefore, if we want to analyze the issue better, the problem is not that many still claim that hall of caryatids it should remain that way to commemorate the devastation of the war, as it is not fundamentally true, but perhaps more of a sign of disdain by politicians and administrators.

With this we want to join Artribune, asking ourselves maybe this the time has come to evaluate the possibility of its integral reconstruction, as a symbol of hidden, enduring beauty, able to survive and testify to its strength even through the horrific brutality of war. Maybe today is the perfect time to restore the hall of caryatids?

In 2023, it will be eighty years since the destruction of the Hall of Caryatidi. Therefore, we remain confidently waiting, hoping that this legitimate request for the restoration of the lost artistic heritage will not go unheeded.

Image Links: Roberto Arsuffi, Milano Sparita,

Sources: Artribun; Thomas Villa; “Cities in the history of Italy” – Milan, Edizini la Terza 1982;

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Duomo, Salone delle Cariatidi, Restoration, Remodeling

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