The Milan Duomo It is surely my favorite place on the planet. I have had to fly to the Italian fashion capital many times. The first time was on my end-of-year trip at the age of 17 and I still haven’t been able to get over the pizza I ate that time, like Jep Gambardella his first love. The next 10 or 12 were for work, and always, always, always, even if I only stayed one day, I have dropped by the Duomo. This gothic cathedral is 158 meters long with a 45 meter high dome (only Beauvais is taller in the world) and would fit 40,000 people if you squeezed it a bit. Construction began at the end of the 14th century, coinciding with the coming to power of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, first Duke of Milan, who wanted to restore predominance and centrality to the region to the detriment of Pavia. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered its façade to be finished off in 1805, and the last of its doors was not inaugurated until 58 years ago.
I am no longer a believer. I was in his day, and even an occasional altar boy, but not anymore. I think that this is it, friends, and that it is better to get the most out of it. I understand that there have been leaders and workers who wanted to erect very tall buildings to try to touch the finger of God, as he painted Miguel Angel in Adan creation, but to me all that seems like a great placebo. It happens to me, however, with the Duomo and with saint patrick, at Fifth and 51 in Manhattan, that its vacuum-packed silence, the shuffling of the tourists’ footsteps, the muffled comments, the Instagram flashes and the click of the coins that are used to light the candles that could save us, I asked myself a Y if with all its letters, with its “Y”, with its “S” and with its “I”. I usually wear a cap if I’m on vacation, so I take it off and pay my respects. The Duomo fills up with people from 8 in the morning.
I do a couple of laps, as much as my time trial schedule allows me. I have a 9 o’clock appointment, but I need that shot of calm, so I finally sit down, a long-overdue moment, as if I’m going to blend in with that warm wood. The only thing that comes out of me then is to put my cell phone in my pocket, cross my fingers on my knees, bow my head a little showing humility and dream of catharsis, as if I were in Pandora and they would have connected me to the great willow tree that has access to eywa.
Just when I think I’m almost about to talk to God there’s an oriental-looking cleaner passing the polisher and I instantly realize it’s a Sorrentino characterin fact I count up to three workers like her combing the area simultaneously, so, while I think for some reason about the Star of death, I wear the AirPods with sound cancellation and waterfall ambient effect. I assume that heaven, if there is one, must sound exactly like that. There are large sockets around me that serve to connect large artificial light lamps (seven centuries ago they were all candles), so it is impossible to find a single corner that does not lead to anachrony, one of the main threadbare of spirituality. If you were at the Duomo like me on April 18, 2023, I am the one sitting in the third row, almost next to the central aisle of the second phase in relation to the altar. I look up looking for guidance, down showing recollection and sometimes in front waiting for signs. Right at that moment, I notice the cross that floats three meters above and also three meters in front of the altar, but if you narrow your eyes you can see that it is supported by two separate copper threads. It’s just a trick.
It’s just a trick.
I don’t cross myself but I want to do it with all my strength. I know all the replies that parishioners give at a mass in Spanish. Here, if there were a trade at this time, it would not be very different. I also remember the two versions of the Our Father and that Jesulin de Ubrique —I heard it in an interview on TV in the 90s— the modern one was never learned. When I land in Madrid that same afternoon, I will pass by the parish church below my house and it will hurt me to think that all those gathered at the 7:30 Mass know something that I do not know and expect something good that I do not expect.
Seven hours go by and I’ve completed my visits and business meetings, but there are still a couple left until a taxi picks me up back at the airport in Linate. I type “Google record store” and go to one that users rate four and a half stars. I find it easily after following Maps for 21 minutes and I know it can’t be bad because it has a disk of Jovanotti very expensive in the showcase. I am not exaggerating if I say that among his entire second, third and fourth hand arsenal there are at least 10,000 vinyls and after verifying that a first edition of the self-titled album by blur from 1997 it is worth 135 euros, I understand that the owner knows exactly what he has and that I am not going to find a bargain.