Basilica, Cathedral, or Duomo?


A Basilica is, literally, the king’s House or the House of the Lord. The names comes from the GreekBasileus”, which means king, and from “Oikos”, which means home. Therefore, each church can be considered a basilica, but the Church attributes only to some of them such definition: mainly because of their importance and/or artistic value. In addition, a basilica must possess the necessary means to maintain the decorum required by the title.

The most famous Basilica is of  course St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and St. Anthony Basilica in Padua, of which I wrote here.


The name Duomo comes from the Latin Domus (home), is also the House of the Lord and it is the most important church in a city. Usually in the Gothic style, with pillars and columns to enhance the rise to the sky (or heavens). 

Some famous churches keep their names as “Duomo”, even if they are “de facto” a Cathedral; for example the most famous Milan Duomo, which can actually claim all three titles: Basilica, Cathedral, and Duomo. 


If the Duomo is located in a city that is the seat of the bishop then it takes the name of Cathedral. The word “Cathedral” come from the Greekκαϑέδρα”, which means “chair, desk”, in Latincathĕdra”. To hold a cathĕdra in Italian means that a University Professor holds the assignment to teach. Hence in a Cathedral the Bishop holds his “chair” from which he teaches his “flock.”

In Italy there are many beautiful Cathedrals, Duomo, or simple Churches, many very well known and others less so. To list them all—or just the most worthy—it must be an impossible task. 

Duomo, (actually) Udine Cathedral 

One noteworthy Duomo is this one in Udine. First built in 1236. In 1348 an earthquake damaged the building, which was restored starting from 1368. In this occasion, the larger previous rose window of the façade was replaced by the smaller current one.

At the beginning of the 18th century a radical transformation project involving both the exterior and the interior was undertaken at the request and expense of the Manin family. The designer was architect Domenico Rossi, the work being finished in 1735.

The Façade

The church has two main portals, one of which, called Portale della Redenzione (the Redemption Portalwho doesn’t like to go thru that door to be redeemed!); executed by an unknown German master in the 14th century. 

The Interior 

The interior has a nave and two aisles separated by pillars. At the sides are four chapels communicating with each other.


In contrast with the Romanesque-Gothic exterior, the Baroque interior has monumental dimensions and contains many works of art by Maffeo da Verona, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (see Tiepolo’s other frescoes here), Pomponio Amalteo, and Ludovico Dorigny. The painter Pellegrino da San Daniele contributed to the altarpiece of Saint Joseph and the organ doors.

On the ground floor of the bell tower (built from 1441 over the ancient baptistry) is a chapel which is completely adorned with frescoes by Vitale da Bologna (1349).

Certainly this Cathedral is not as richly decorated as the one in Cremona, but I love it nevertheless, perhaps because of  the welcoming sense of peace inside. The frescos have a rich golden brown palette which gives a warming effect. A beautiful church worth visiting.


Once done visiting the cathedral for lunch or dinner I would suggest one of the finest places in town. “Antica Trattoria Alla Vedova”.  It is a bit out of the way from the down town, but it is worth the trip and reservations are recommended. This is a traditional restaurant—or Trattoria because it carries still the old name—with a warm welcoming feeling. The friendly staff and their attention to your every need makes this place truly unique. 



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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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