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Triduum of the Holy Nail and Rite of the Nivola

The presence of the Holy Nail in the Cathedral was first documented at the end of the XIV century

Cappella Feriale Nivola 01
Schedule:07:00 - 18:30 Every:
  • Monday
  • Saturday
  • Sunday
until: 9/16/2019


SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER - Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

- 3.00 pm Vesper service presided over by His Excellency the Archbishop of Milan, Rite of Nivola and exposition of the Holy Nail
- 5.30 pm vigil Eucharist

SUNDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER - Diocesan Day for the Seminary
Eucharistic Celebrations 7.00 am - 8.00 am - 9.30 am - 11.00 am - 12.30 pm - 5.30 pm

- 10.25 am Morning lauds
- 11.00 am capitular Eucharist
- 4.00 pm Vesper service and Procession with the Holy Nail

Eucharistic celebrations 7.00 am - 8.00 am - 9.30 am - 11.00 am - 12.45 am - 5.30 pm
The 8:30 am service is suspended

5:30 pm Capitular Eucharist and Vesper service, Rite of the Nivola and repositioning of the Holy Nail

For all celebrations in the Cathedral, access is free and without reservation.

The Holy Nail, an illustrious relic of the Passion of the Lord, has been preserved in the current cathedral since 20 March 1461, when it was solemnly moved from the ancient "summer" basilica of Santa Tecla, which was being demolished by then, into the new and larger Cathedral, still under construction in the area already occupied by the "winter" basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

The devotion to the Holy Nail, whose presence at Milan Cathedral has been continuously documented since the end of the XIV century, has always been strong in the Ambrosian community and was encouraged above all by Archbishop Carlo Borromeo. On the occasion of the plague of 1576, he carried the precious Relic in procession through the streets of Milan and inaugurated the evocative Nivola rite.

He wanted the procession with the Holy Nail to be repeated every year on 3 May, the day of the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross according to the ancient liturgical calendar. The attention of the faithful, however, was focused on the initial moment of the ceremony, the taking of the Relic. It was (and still is) preserved in a tabernacle (always marked by a red lamp) placed on the top of the inner vault of the Cathedral, in an eminent place which can only be reached by using a peculiar machine called Nivola. The name, derived from Milanese dialect, designates a sort of “lift” which is shaped like a cloud (nuvola, in Italian) and is decorated with painted canvases, statues of angels and draperies (its present form dates back to 1624). It is the only means by which the tabernacle of the Holy Nail can be reached. Always using the Nivola, the precious Relic was placed in its tabernacle at the end of the celebrations that lasted until 5 May.

With the new liturgical calendar, the feast of 3 May in honour of the Cross has been abolished and therefore the Triduum of the Holy Nail with the rite of the Nivola has been properly restored, also following the complex and long strengthening of the dome shell, by choosing the three closest days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) to 14 September, the day of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On this occasion, at the beginning of the Saturday Vesper service, the reliquary is taken from its tabernacle by using the Nivola and the precious Relic, which is inserted into a large gilded wooden cross, is shown to the people. The Procession, which in San Carlo Borromeo’s time went from the Duomo to the nearby church of San Sepolcro (located in the square by the same name), is today held inside the Cathedral, at the end of the Sunday Vesper service. Finally, on Monday evening, the Holy Nail is placed back in its tabernacle that hangs above the altar and over the whole Cathedral by using the “lift” once again.

This year, the Triduum of the Holy Nail will be held from Saturday 14 to Monday 16 September. The inaugural Vesper service (at 3.00 pm), with the Rite of the Nivola, will be presided over by the Archbishop of Milan, Monsignor Mario Delpini. The Sunday Procession (at 4.00 pm), with the participation of the Metropolitan Chapter, the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Sacrament, the Equestrian Orders and the various Confraternities of the Diocese, will be presided over by the Archpriest of the Cathedral, Msgr. Gianantonio Borgonovo.

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