That Milan’s famous marble cathedral needs a constant supply of money for its restoration and upkeep is not in doubt..
But this hasn’t stopped the latest funding plan from dividing the city down the middle.
The Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo – the vestry board of the cathedral responsible for the church’s preservation – wants to open a bar on the roof.
In particular, the vestry board has its eyes on the influx of visitors to the city expected when the next World’s Fair opens here in 2015. As it is, the gothic church sees one million visitors a year.
The board declared that “the project neither offends the sensibilities of pilgrims nor harms the sanctity of the cathedral”. But officials at the cultural heritage ministry have now challenged the plans, claiming they are “inappropriate and incompatible with the function of the building”.
Supporters of the proposal point out that there was a sometimes bar on top of the gothic cathedral in the 1960s and 1970s.
And the cathedral’s terrace has probably suffered worst indignities. Most notably, three summers ago the then premier Silvio Berlusconi was handed the “Grande Milano” man of the year award there from a simpering provincial president Guido Podesta.
The Milan-born Prime Minister went on to give an interminable self-promoting speech before singing a song or two with the French crooner Charles Aznavour. After that, the guests present were gagging for a drink. Or just gagging.