Ellen G. White in Europe 1885-1887


Milan and the Great Cathedral

Since their train was not to leave until ten-thirty next morning, they improved the time sight-seeing.* The main point of interest, of course, in Milan, was the grand cathedral, the most important Gothic structure in Italy. The cathedral, begun in 1386, was just then being completed. She confessed that no one could fail to be impressed with the grandeur and immensity of the huge white-marble building, but she still looked upon it as a vast “extravagance.” Some art critics have had similar reservations about the cathedral, but her judgments were colored by factors other than mere artistic taste. While she was overwhelmed by the architecture, she was favorably impressed by “the windows and walls ... adorned with high-colored pictures, painted by the finest Italian artists. These paintings represent scenes in Bible history and in traditional church history. It seemed to me that I never saw such a gorgeous combination of colors.”—The Review and Herald, June 1, 1886. EGWE 175.1

But she was pained as she saw the worshipers enter, dip their fingers in a marble basin of “holy water,” make the sign of the cross, and go quietly to seats in front of the altar. As she saw them bowing before the images, it seemed to her a pathetic sight not unlike pagan worship. “How I longed to lift my voice in this grand old building, and point the poor, deluded souls to God and heaven!” The sight of women kneeling before the confessional boxes was even more painful to her. “It was placing a man with like passions as themselves in the place of Christ,” she said (Ibid.). EGWE 175.2

The cathedral is decorated inside and out with no less than 2,245 statues and images, and it is little wonder that Ellen White remarked later, “How the Roman church can clear herself from the charge of idolatry we cannot see. True, she professes to worship God through these images: so did the Israelites when they bowed before the golden calf” (Ibid.). EGWE 176.1