The Good Friday celebration in the Duomo

Liturgic Life

The Good Friday celebration in the Duomo

The Passion and Deposition of the Lord

If the Vesper celebration (Mass “in the Lord’s Supper”) on Holy Thursday commemorates the first act of the Lord’s Passion, the Friday Vespers celebration is its natural continuation and finds its climax in the proclamation of Christ’s death on the Cross, with the Reading of the Passion according to Matthew from the point where it had been interrupted the previous evening.

The celebration is included in the Vespers prayer and the proclamation of the Passion is preceded by two readings from the First Testament (taken from the prophet Isaiah) and introduced by the singing of the ancient responsory Tenebrae. The peculiarity of this Responsory is the Latin text – as it is still performed by the Musical Chapel – in which, contrary to the Gospel account, in the Ambrosian version the lance stroke anticipates Christ’s death on the cross.


In the Duomo it is the Archbishop himself who solemnly proclaims the Passion of the Lord: he, clothed in the vestments as for the Mass, wearing the miter and assisted by six deacons, reads from the cathedra the account of the passion and death of Jesus.

When the announcement of the Lord’s death is made, the reading is interrupted and darkness falls, the candles are extinguished, the altars are ‘stripped’ of any ornaments, and all stand for a few moments in silence, while the main bell tolls in mournful tones. From now on, until the start of the Easter Vigil, the Archbishop – as a sign of mourning – will no longer use the crosier, just as he has not worn the episcopal ring since the start of the celebration. The bells of the Cathedral will also remain ‘tied’, until the joyful announcement of the Resurrection on Easter Night.


The proclamation of the Passion is followed by the Adoration of the Cross. Four deacons carry a large golden cross with a Relic of the Holy Cross in the centre along the central nave of the Cathedral, which is raised three times, while the antiphon “Ecce lignum Crucis in quo salus mundi pependit” (Behold the wood of the Cross, on which the Saviour of the world was hung) is sung, and three times all kneel before it. The adoration of the Cross is followed by the solemn Universal Prayer, in which the prayer of the Church, gathered at the foot of the Cross, expands to embrace the whole world.

Moreover, Good Friday (like every other Friday of Ambrosian Lent) is an ‘aliturgical’ day: Mass is not celebrated and, unlike the Roman Rite, not even Eucharistic Communion is distributed.


The evening celebration concludes, in the Duomo, with the remembrance of the Lord’s Deposition: the liturgy guides us to contemplate the scene of Jesus’ burial, to relive its saving efficacy and to discover its spiritual value.

The rite proper to the Cathedral Church – with the veiling of the Cross, performed by four deacons, at the end of the proclamation of the Gospel of the Deposition – recalls the Mystery of the Lord’s descent into hell and introduces us into the second day of the Easter Triduum (Holy Saturday): the day of the burial, of silence, of the liturgical absence of the Bridegroom and the expectation of his resurrection.


A final peculiarity characterises the Ambrosian tradition: from the moment of the announcement of Jesus’ death, no blessing is given or any Trinitarian doxology recited (Glory to the Father…), just as any form of liturgical greeting is omitted, precisely to signify the liturgical absence of the Lord.