Milan, the Capital: from Diocletian to Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan, L.O.V.E., 2010, Piazza degli Affari, Milan

Milan became the capital city of the Western Roman Empire under Diocletian, and remained such for just over a century (from 286 to 402 CE).

Various important and often forgotten traces of that distant, glorious past can still be seen today in the old town, from the columns of San Lorenzo, which were taken from a demolished pagan temple in the 4th century, to the ruins of the Imperial Palace in via Brisa, the official residence of Emperor Constantine and where he probably signed the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, granting freedom of religion to Roman subjects.

Milano Capitale
Colonne di San Lorenzo, Corso di Porta Ticinese, Milan

A short walk from the Palace, careful observers will be struck by the soaring Torre dei Gorani, a recently restored 12th-century structure surrounded by ultramodern buildings that seems to have been plucked from a medieval Tuscan village. A few hundred metres further on, a more than 4-metre-tall monumental hand made of Carrara marble stands opposite the Palazzo della Borsa (which was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman theatre and symbolises Milan’s status as the Italian financial centre): Maurizio Cattelan’s controversial L.O.V.E., also known as “Il Dito” (The Finger).

Milano Capitale
Torre dei Gorani, via Gorani 4, Milan

Beyond its clear and deliberate irreverence, this famous, iconic sculpture might also be seen as a giant archaeological find, almost a kind of reference to the splendour and centrality that Milan already enjoyed around 2,000 years ago.

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ArchaeologyItinerariesLand Art and monumentsLombardyMilan