The tour of this town should start in the central yet intimate Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the marble façade of the church itself and the austere mass of the neighboring belfry. The Duomo was built and developed on the site of Longobard oracolum dated 6th century AD, which Queen Theodelinda dedicated to saint. John Baptist. It is the symbolic of a fantastic treasure house of memories frozen forever in its stone, canvases and frescoes. According to a legend of the late Middle Ages, Queen Theodolinda had made a vow to build a church in honor of God and saint John Baptist and a celestian voice announced that the Holy Spirit would appear as dove to indicate the site for the construction. Theodolinda set off for a long journey and stopped on the banks of the river Lambro to rest in the shadeof a great tree when a dove appeared to her and a voice said: "modo", inviting to remain; the Queen was ready to reply "etiam", thus agreeing to biuld the new basilica just on that spot. It was the union of the two words that spawned the word Modoetia, the ancient name of Monza. The Basilica of Monza was fully rebuilt after 1300 over the ruins of the Longobard church: the 14th century interventions created a Latin cross layout with an octagonal dome cladding. Midway through the century side chapels were added and Matteo da Campione extended the flying façade with polycrome whit and green marble, under the influence of Pisan Gothic. The elegant portico that decorates the church's only entrance is of the Renaissance period: the statue of St John Baptist that dominates the porchis a copy of the original (14th century), today housed in the annexed Museum. The lunetteabove the lovely portal is a great historic and documentary significance as it is the first illustration of several items that are still to be found in the Duomo Museum. In 1557 the original trussbeamed Gothic interior was extensively modified to accomodate a vaulted ceiling. the choir extension came twenty years later, designed by Ercole Turati, who also undertook (1592 - 1606) to design the massive, streamlined terracotta bell tower.
The interior of the church is the perfect gallery for the various baroque and rococo tendencies present in Lombardy. In this respect the great Tree of the Cross fresco on the southern transept wall is interesting, attributed to Arcimboldo (1556); Giraldi's frescoes in the dome cladding are also noteworthy as are the Carloni paintings (side aisle vaults). On the left side of the main aisle there is Matteo da Campione's highly important 14th century pulpit, with relief figures of apostles and evangelists. Between the presbytery and the choir, Appiani's massive neoclassical altar looms and opposite it there is admirable silver antependium on the high altar, another 14th century opus of great value, made by Borgino del Pozzo in gilt embossed lamina with high relief, depicting scenes from the life of st. John the Baptist. In the first chapel on the left there is the 17th century baptistery, by Ercole Turati. All that survives of the 15th century decor is the precious cycle of frescoes that covers that walls of Theodelinda's chapel opening off to the left of the high altar. The frescoes by the Zavattari family are an unmistakable Gothic; the cycle is extraordinarily ample and complete, celebrating the mytical figure of the founder of the Duomo, unraveling forty-five scenes over five rows.
The 5th century Iron Crown is also kepthere in Theodelinda's capel. This authentic masterpiece of ancient goldsmithing is formed by six rectangular gold tablets bound together by hinges and an interior metal ring that a tradition reinforced by ecclesiastical approval, deems to be one of the nails from the Passion of Christ. Each tablet is decorated with gams, gold rosettes and cloisonné enameling. The Iron Ctown was used to crown kings and emperors during the Middle Ages, including Konrad of Svevia, Frederic II, Charles IV of Bohemia, Frederic III of Hapsburg, Charles V: the most famous exemple is, hoever, that of Napoleon Buonapart, and the last was that of Ferdinand I of Austria. Through the right hand transept, across the charming cloister with its 18yh graveyard, there is acces to the Treasure of this Duomo.

for information and guided tours:
+39 039 326383       
Open from Monday to Saturday 8.00am - 12.00pm / 3.00pm - 6.00pm; Sunday 8.00am - 1.00pm / 3.00pm - 7.00pm 


Iron Crown:
for information and guided tours: +39 039 326383
Opening hours: from Tuesday to Saturday 9.00am - 6.00pm; Sunday 2.00pm - 6.00pm; Monday 3.00pm - 6.00pm. Visits are suspended during the religious services.