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12 September Sep 2017 1303 2 months ago

The Rite of the Nivola in the Duomo, an ancient and moving tradition

16th September marks the beginning of the triduum of the Holy Nail

Milan Cathedral houses one of the most important relics of Christianity: a nail from the True Cross. 

Before being brought to the Duomo in 1461, the Holy Nail was kept in the Basilica of St. Thecla and today it is preserved in a reliquary in the apse, near the high Altar. The Rite of the Nivola is held to celebrate the presence of the precious relic inside the Duomo, in memory of the procession held by St. Charles Borromeo during the plague of 1577.

The structure, in the shape of a cloud, designed in the 17th century and decorated  in papier-mâché with angels and clouds, is lifted to a height of 40 metres by a hoist which is used to lower the Holy Nail to the ground so that it can be seen by the faithful. The relic remains on the ground for 40 hours, at the end of which the Nail is put back in its case, signalled to the Duomo visitors by a red light, switched on to indicate the position of the tabernacle.

A truly fascinating rite which, after almost five centuries, never ceases to amaze, captivating faithful and visitors alike who come from all over the world to witness this ancient tradition renewed every year.  Originally, the rite was celebrated in May for the Feast of the Cross with a procession from the Duomo to the church of San Sepolcro, located in San Sepolcro Square.

The tradition underwent several changes following the Habsburg and Napoleonic restrictions and when in the 20th century the rite was reinstated after the complex and lengthy consolidation work on the dome lantern, it was moved to September, to mark the day dedicated to the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

This year, the Triduum will be celebrated from Saturday 16th to Monday 18th September.

SATURDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER 2017
- 15.00 Vespers, Rite of the Nivola and exhibition of the Holy Nail.
- 17.30 Eucharist vigil and salutation of the diocese to His Excellency Mons. Pierantonio Tremolada, elected bishop of Brescia

SUNDAY 17th SEPTEMBER 2017 – Day dedicated to the Diocesan Seminary 
Holy Eucharist 7.10 - 8.00 - 9.30 - 11.00 - 12.30 - 17.30
11.30 (in Santa Maria Annunciata)
- 10.25 Lauds
- 11.00 Capitular Eucharist
- 16.00 Vespers and Procession with the Holy Nail

MONDAY 18th SEPTEMBER 2017
Holy Eucharist 7.10 - 8.00 - 9.30 - 11.00 - 12.45 - 17.30
13.10 (in Santa Maria Annunciata)
No service at 8.30
- 17.30 Capitular Eucharist, celebration of Vespers and repositioning of the Holy Nail  

To learn more about the Rite of the Nivola and its extraordinary history in terms of faith and art, Veneranda Fabbrica offers two guided tours of discovery of this ancient and fascinating Ambrosian tradition, on Sunday 17th September at 5.30 p.m. and Tuesday 19th September at  3.30 p.m.