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“The Blessed Sacrament is best not given to masks”

A document that dates back to 1943 reveals the Duomo’s rules to preserve its decorum

Regolamento Duomo
16 July Jul 2019 1113 16 July 2019

Duomo di Milano has, for centuries, been the pulsating heart of the city. Its value is not only religious and spiritual but also artistic and cultural. Knowing its story also means knowing the history of the Milanese people.

The Archive of VenerandaFabbrica del Duomo also contains the smallest and most peculiar details of the Cathedral’s daily life. In fact, all events that have occurred over the past years can be traced.

It is interesting to notice to what extent VenerandaFabbrica has always meticulously protected the Duomo’s prestige, order, decorum and moral values, besides preserving the delicate structure from villains and vandals who have attempted to disfigure it over the years. In fact, the many documents also include several papers that date back to the early 1900s, and which lay down the strict rules to be followed both inside the church and in the surrounding areas. Every detail is carefully studied: from the hours of daytime and night-time surveillance, to collection methods of offerings, recommended behaviour and rules about clothing. It is rather suggestive to look into the past and realise that our customs and habits are deeply changing over the years. Particularly the rules for women are increasingly evolving today, gradually becoming more lenient. According to a document that dates back to 1943, at the time it was mandatory for women to attend mass with arms and legs fully covered, and even with their head covered. The face could only have a light touch of make-up. We read in the text, “with face and lips not defaced by the silly vanity of minium powder and other dyes. The Blessed Sacrament should not be given to masks”. Anybody, whose attitude or clothing offended the common religious feeling, was politely but inexorably sent away.

Rules concerning clothing are certainly not so strict today, but one has to be decently dressed to access the Duomo. If visitors are not appropriately dressed, they are not sent out of the building but are, instead, invited to cover the exposed body parts with cloaks, which are distributed at the entrance for those who need them.

These, which might seem unimportant details that only interest the most curious, are actually important fragments of the Duomo’s life. They help us piece together the history of this prestigious Cathedral, the symbol of Milan.

Text by AniaAlleva and Luciano Paolo Vurro from ScuolaMilitareTeulié in Milan for the excellence-enhancing project performed at the Archive of VenerandaFabbricadel Duomo di Milano.