A very important and much anticipated event destined to leave a profound mark on city life and the Ambrosian Church; a moment that is being eagerly awaited with great joy and emotion, on 25th March Pope Francis will be in Milan!
Like all St Peter’s successors who have come to the city, Francis’s entry into the Cathedral will mark the continuation of a very special relationship: the home of all the Ambrosian faithful, all the people of Milan and everybody enthralled by the beauty of this great Monument under the protection of the Madonnina at the top, the city’s symbol right across the world. The Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo is already a hive of activity - and not just building work - as it prepares to welcome the Holy Father, offering him its own hard work as a gift.
One of the most important moments in preparation for this event is the major concert the Sistine Chapel Choir will be performing for the city, scheduled for Thursday, 23rd March, at 7:30 p.m.
The Grandi Cantieri della Veneranda Fabbrica are also busy preparing the altar where Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass in Monza Park on the historic date of 25th March. The altar will be decorated with the eye-catching silver altarpiece or antependium “Taverna”.
An antependium or altarpiece (“pallium” in Latin meaning “veil”) is the front part of an altar or decorative panel sometimes used for covering it. It may be made of cloth or marble or be a mosaic, painted tableau, carved wood or precious metal relief made, for example, out of silver.
The antependium is made out of sheets of silver, which, perfectly connected and attached to a walnut frame, have meticulously worked projecting ornamental and chiselled parts, while the figures on the three high-relief sections are carefully cast, as are the medallions on the cornice, the little angels’ heads and the coats of arms.
The altarpiece gets its name from the fact it was a gift from the Ordinary Canon, Count Stanislao Taverna, who commissioned the work. The gift was made back on 8th September, 1835: it was designed to be placed on the front of the Cathedral’s main altar to celebrate the Corpus Domini.
The side panels are decorated with scenes showing, on the left, Jesus in the garden receiving a goblet from an angel, on the right, the Resurrection and, in the middle, the Last Supper.
A masterpiece of 19th-century goldsmithery, the altarpiece was designed by the academic Francesco Durelli, while the scale models were made by Agostino Pandiani (ornamentation and Christ in the garden) and Felice Figini (Resurrection) under the supervision of their mentor, the academic Abbondio Sangiorgio. Pandiani and Figini worked together on the scale model for the Last Supper.
The work was carried out by the Giovanni Battista Sala goldsmith’s workshop with Magnani and Giovanni Bellezza taking care of the chiselling, which was later completed by Minola and Giacomo Ronzi.
The Taverna Antependium was also used during the solemn celebrations for the beatification of Don Carlo Gnocchi held in Piazza del Duomo on 25th October, 2009, and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of 19th-century goldsmithery owned by the Capitolo Metropolitano.