Saturday, October 24, 2015


Facade of Milan Cathedral

 “The world is my church."
― Steve Maraboli

The last few days in  Florence and Milan have been so busy that I've been too tired to write anything.  My apologies.  I do, however, want to touch on something briefly tonight before I head to bed: religion.

Italy, as you probably know, is full of Catholic churches.  Turn a corner, see a church.  My grandmother's village (600+ residents) has five that I know of.  Castrovalva, a tiny town of about 20 permanent residents, has three or four.  Don't even ask me about a city like Bologna or Milan or Rome.  As I said, turn a corner, see a church.
Side altar
 One of the things that gets me most is the fact that the churches are so huge and so ornate, and you know darn well that the people who built them were the poor people.  There was no way a Medici family member was going to get his hands dirty placing marble to make columns.

But, here's the question that really bothers me: Do we really need the huge basilicas and cathedrals to worship properly?  OF COURSE NOT.  It's actually pretty disgusting, if you think of it, of how much time and money have gone into these places from their inception to today.  Let's look, for example, at the duomo in Milan.

Built in the Lombard Gothic style, the duomo took 582 years to complete.  It is the fifth largest church in the world, second largest church in Italy, and second largest Gothic-style cathedral in the world.  It actually sits on the site of older churches that date back to 350 AD.

Side of Milan Cathedral
On the outside, there are 135 spires, and on the inside, there are 52 columns (Each is 24.5 meters high.). Also inside are 3400 statues that date from medieval to modern times.  Numerous bishops of the diocese are buried there, and St. Charles Borromeo, former archbishop of Milan and an instrumental figure in getting work on the cathedral completed during his term, sleeps in a crypt under the main altar.  There are five (FIVE) wide naves in the cathedral, and I didn't count how many altars. There are a lot, and I assume you know that people of wealth could donate money to have their own altar in churches.  Of course, the cathedral has many religious artifacts, and it's said that one of the nails from the crucifixion is in a vault in the ceiling behind the altar.

What strikes me most about all of this is the waste of money.  Let me be fair and say that it's not only the Catholic Church, either.  I've been in plenty of large, ornate Protestant and Jewish houses of worship, so I bring this up only because I've been in the Florence and Milan duomos this week.

Where are our priorities?

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