On Saturday, September 14, 2013, at 3:00 p.m. the Duomo will hold the Celebration of the Vespers presided by His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, during which the Rite of the Nivola will be held along with the display of the Holy Nail.
The Rite of the Nivola is one amongst the many feasts and liturgical traditions of the Duomo of Milan and has been celebrated every year on September 14th, from the 16th century to present day, during the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
St. Carlo Borromeo initiated this day in 1576, when he brought the Holy Nail in procession from the Duomo of Milan to the Church of St. Celso to beg for the plague to end.
I The rite was named “nivola,” a word that derives from Milanese dialect indicating a special type of elevator – which dates back to the beginning of the 17th century – shaped like a cloud and decorated with painted cloths and draperies, the only means possible for removing the Holy Nail from a reliquary suspended just under the apse pediment, at a height of forty meters.
The Nivola was also used to return the precious relic to its place in the tabernacle at the end of the celebrations, which lasted until May 5th
With the new liturgical system, the Triduum begins on September 14th with the celebration of the Vespers, during which the Archbishop is taken by the “nivola” up to the Holy Nail, which is then set in a large gilded wood cross and solemnly displayed to be venerated by the devotees, and then returned to its place at the end of the festivities.
The procession, which in St. Carlo’s day went from the Duomo to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, today is held exclusively in the Cathedral and ends with the solemn blessing bestowed upon the devotees, who flock to this traditional and evocative event.