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

The triduum of the Holy Nail

Nivola 2018
3 September Sep 2018 1156 03 September 2018

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 15th to Monday 17th September.


- 3.00pm Vespers, Rite of the Nivola and exhibition of the Holy Nail
- 5.30pm Vigil Eucharist

SUNDAY 16th SEPTEMBER 2018 – Day dedicated to the Diocesan Seminary
Holy Eucharist 7am – 8am - 9.30am – 11am - 12.30pm - 5.30pm
- 10.25am Morning Prayer
- 11am Capitular Eucharist
- 4pm Vespers and Procession with the Holy Nail

7am – 8am - 9.30am – 11am - 12.30pm - 5.30pm

No service at 8.30am

- 5.30pm Capitular Eucharist, celebration of Vespers and repositioning of the Holy Nail presided over by his Excellency, Monsignor Archbishop