Monza Cathedral, a short guide to discovering a treasure chest full of treasures

The Duomo of Monza is the symbol of the city and preserves historical, cultural and artistic beauties of inestimable value. The Cathedral Museum and Treasury tell the story through a rich sequence of relics and precious objects, among which the Iron Crown, kept in the Teodolinda Chapel, stands out. In this short guide, everything you need to know about the Monza Cathedral and some practical information to visit it.

The Duomo , located in the heart of the historic center, is undoubtedly at the top of the list of things to see in Monza . Inside there are some of the most important artistic beauties that the city of Brianza can offer to tourists. The Duomo of Monza, in fact, houses a rich museum and hides a real treasure , the most precious piece of which is the iron crown , with which numerous sovereigns were crowned for centuries, including the kings of Italy. In addition, the bell tower that adorns the Basilica, which represents the highest point in all of Monza, deserves a special mention. Visiting the Duomo of Monza , therefore, is really a necessary activity, even if you are in the city only for a weekend. And to prepare for the visit, you can rely on this short and practical guide.

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The history of the Monza Cathedral

To understand the importance of the Duomo of Monza, it is good to begin this “journey” to its discovery by retracing the main stages of its history . And the historical events concerning the Cathedral, officially called the Minor Basilica of San Giovanni Battista , begin long before its construction. At the end of 500 d. C., in fact, where today the famous religious building stands, there was the Basilica built by the queen of the Lombards Teodolinda , a central figure in the history of the city. Probably, that ancient Basilica was already consecrated to St. John the Baptist. However, practically nothing remains of the original construction , except some building materials and some furnishings, now housed in the Cathedral Museum. In fact, in 1300 , the year of the first Jubilee of Christianity, it was decided to radically overturn the building , rebuilding it from scratch. These were truly impressive works, the first phase of which ended almost half a century later, in 1346. Still for centuries, however, the Duomo of Monza was the object of embellishments and enrichments, with the addition of works of art and new architectural elements, such as the imposing bell tower (whose construction began in 1592).

The architecture of the Monza Cathedral

And so, piece by piece, over the centuries, the Duomo of Monza has come to be that architectural jewel that today is a source of pride for the city. Among other things, the careful restoration that was carried out in 2020 has accentuated its splendor.

The external facade

The external facade of the Duomo of Monza , facing the square of the same name, is perhaps one of the elements that most characterizes the building, thanks to its “two-tone” appearance. It is made in the Gothic style , using a skilful alternation of black and white marble . At the center of the façade, another distinctive feature dominates: the rose window by Matteo Campione , original signature of the entire facade (later restored, at the beginning of the 20th century, by Luca Beltrami). The rose window is framed by a line of perforated tiles, with masks, flowers and stars. Below the rose window there is the porch, on which stands the statue of St. John the Baptist . Other decorative elements are the mullioned windows and the three- mullioned windows that open specularly along the two sides and the medallions of the arch, which contain the busts of Queen Teodolinda and her husband Agilulfo.


Equally suggestive are the interiors of the Duomo of Monza . The structure is the classic Latin cross , consisting of three naves with side chapels . The naves are separated by octagonal section pillars, decorated at the end with capitals representing animals, griffins, sirens and centaurs. In general, the decorations of the Cathedral, with a few exceptions, are all attributable to the Baroque period , while little has been saved from the previous phases. What is most striking about the basilica is the extreme wealth of frescoes , which all deserve to be admired.

affreschi duomo monza

What’s in the Duomo of Monza

Beyond its indisputable overall beauty, however, the Cathedral houses some “precious pieces”, true masterpieces of history, art and culture that deserve a separate mention. These are, in particular, the frescoes of the Teodolinda Chapel and the tree of life, the Museum and the Treasury, the Iron Crown and the bell tower.

The frescoes of the Teodolinda Chapel

As mentioned, the frescoes are numerous and beautiful. Among all, those signed by the Zavattari stand out, which adorn the Chapel of Teodolinda , which houses the iron crown and the remains of the beloved queen of the Lombards. It is a pictorial cycle that shines with its golds and bright colors . The story that unfolds throughout the various paintings is that of Theodolinda’s life, whose conversion to Christianity was a vehicle for the consequent conversion of her people.

The tree of Life

The one depicting the Tree of Life is another of the valuable frescoes that adorn the interiors of the Duomo of Monza. It is located on the right transept and is the work of Giuseppe Meda and Giuseppe Arcimboldo , who began to paint it in 1556.

The Museum and Treasury of the Monza Cathedral

The Museum and Treasury of the Monza Cathedral is a treasure chest that holds a priceless heritage of works of art and relics. Overall, the assets that make up this heritage make it possible to reconstruct, step by step, the entire history of the Basilica, from 1300 to 1900. Among other things, the Cross and Crown of Theodolinda , the Cross of Agilulf , the Diptych of King David and St. Gregory and the Reliquary of the tooth of St. John the Baptist are part of the Treasury. The seat of the Museum is located just below the Duomo.

The Iron Crown

The spearhead of the Monza Cathedral Treasury, however, is undoubtedly the Iron Crown . It is a prestigious find, because for centuries it has served to crown many kings. The origins of this precious object are unknown; according to the most accredited theses, the Iron Crown would be datable between 450 and 500 AD. Currently, it is kept in the altar of the Teodolinda Chapel .

corona ferrea monza

The bell tower (or bell tower)

The bell tower of the Duomo of Monza, with its 75 meters high , represents the “tip” of the city, a fundamental reference for all the inhabitants. In the original structure the presence of the bell tower was not foreseen, which was instead added at the beginning of 1600, on the initiative of the archpriest Camillo Aulario. At the top of the bell tower there are 8 bells, dated 1741.

Visiting the Duomo of Monza: practical information

In light of what has been said so far, a visit to the Duomo of Monza is truly an unavoidable stop. Here, then, is some practical information to better organize it.

Opening time

Monza Cathedral can be visited every day (except Mondays), from 9 to 13 and from 14 to 18. The Teodolinda Chapel, on the other hand, has slightly different hours, being open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 to 18, and on Sunday, from 14 to 18.

Guided tours

The main tourist attractions of the Monza Cathedral can also be visited with the help of a guide. All information on guided tours can be found on the museum’s website

How to reach the Duomo of Monza and where to park

The Duomo is located in the historic center, within a restricted traffic area. To reach it, therefore, it is necessary to leave your car in one of the paid parking lots adjacent to the historic center. From there you can easily continue on foot.

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