Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Unique Milanese Custom for the Feast of the Ascension

Many European churches have a large and beautiful candelabrum for the Paschal candle, and the Duomo of Milan is no exception. The “ciloster”, as it is called in Milanese dialect, was originally made by one Lorenzo da Civate in 1447, although subsequent restorations have changed its appearance considerably.

In the Roman Rite, there is a rubric that simply says the Paschal candle is extinguished after the Gospel on the feast of the Ascension, and therefore lit again only for the blessing of the baptismal font on the vigil of Pentecost. In the Duomo, the rite is something a little more impressive, as you can see in this video of Pontifical Mass held last year on the feast of the Ascension (starting at 21:38, with the beginning of the Gospel. Anyone who knows Italian will be treated to the disconcerting intrusion of a liturgical commentator before the reading itself begins, explaining a rite whose symbolism could not possibly be unclear to anyone.)

Once the ciloster has reached the ceiling, it remains there until the following Easter, as can be seen in this 19th-century painting of the interior of the Duomo; it is the darker object hanging from one of the vaults, in the middle of the image near the top. (The vaults of the nave, by the way, are 147½ feet above the floor, the third highest in the world after only the cathedral of Beauvais and St Peter’s in Rome.)

Thanks to Nicola for the photographs!

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