The interior of the Duomo of Monza

Duomo di Monza

Inside, the cathedral has a Latin cross plan with three aisles. Octagonal columns with capitals featuring wild animals, eagles, telamones, griffins, sirens and centaurs separate the aisles while the semi-capitals of the transverse arch show Christ and the Evangelists. The walls are decorated with the portraits of Longobard kings and emperors believed to have been crowned with the Iron Crown. On the end wall of the right transept, there is the Tree of Life, frescos by Giuseppe Arcimboldi and Giuseppe Lomazzo (known in Italy as ‘il Meda’) dating back to 1556.

The high altar, built between 1793 and 1798 by Andrea Appiani, is in marble and gilded bronze with amethyst and lapis lazuli inserts. The frontal, at the centre of the presbytery, is a masterpiece of Lombard Gothic craftsmanship: the decoration tells the life of John the Baptist and, at the centre, depicts the Baptism of Christ. The stories of John the Baptist are also depicted on the walls of the choir. To the left of the presbytery is the Chapel of Theodelinda, with mural paintings from the first half of the 15th century by the Zavattaris depicting stories from the life of Queen Theodelinda, an undisputed masterpiece of Gothic art. On the entrance arch can be seen John the Baptist blessing Theodelinda, Autari, Agilulf and Adaloald. Close to the queen, there is a dove and the word ‘Modo’, while Theodelinda replies ‘Etiam’: the two words, according to a medieval legend, gave origin to the ancient name of Monza, Modoetia. The remains of Queen Theodelinda lie in a sarcophagus behind the altar.

The Iron Crown is kept in the tabernacle of the altar in the Chapel of Theodelinda, constructed during the restoration work by Luca Beltrami (1892-95): it is among the best-known artefacts of the Longobard period.