Page 7, 26th April 1963

26th April 1963
Page 7
Page 7, 26th April 1963 — LETTER FROM ROME

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Locations: Milan, Vienna, ROME


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by Alan McElwain SOMEONE among the Servants of Mary, who run :he Church of Santa Maria in Via, in the heart of Rome. showed a superb sense of drama on Holy Thursday. In front of the Altar of Repose was placed a long, narrow table upon which were set out 12 metal goblets and, in the centre, rested a chalice and a cut loaf of bread. On the ground near one corner of the table were a basin, a pitcher of water and a towel, symbolising Christ's washing of his Disciples' feet before the Last Supper.

This representation may be traditional in some places, but it was absolutely new to me-after years in Rome at that-and I found it tremendously moving.

In the Nivola

Preparations are already being made in Milan for an extraordinary, traditional ceremony on May 3, anniversary of the Finding of the Holy Cross. On that day, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, will climb into a nivola (Latin for cloud), an elaborate temporary elevator placed in the centre of his magnificent cathedral. Then, with attendants, he will be hoisted more than 100 feet up into the dark vault to fetch a reliquary containing one of the Nails that, tradition says, was used to fasten Christ to the Cross. The reliquary is then carried in procession and, after the Nail has been venerated for 40 hours, it is returned to its lofty darkness for another year.

First mention of the Nail was made in a eulogy St. Ambrose.

himself Bishop of Milan, delivered on the death of the Emperor Theodosius on February 25. 395. St. Ambrose recalled that the Nail has been donated to the city by the emperor, and he also spoke of

I lelena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, who had found the True Cross in Palestine, and with it the Nail, The Nail is mentioned in records of Milan Cathedral kept in the Middle Ages. When a new cathedral was opened in 1461, Archbishop Charles of Forli ordered the Nail to be kept, for safety, hidden away in the vault. There it has stayed until the present, to he brought out each May 3 by successive archbishops. In the past, rulers vied jealously for the privilege of carrying the Nail in procession. The Empress Maria Theresa of Austria travelled from Vienna to Milan for the honour.

I like the postscript an Italian publication puts to its account of these interesting facts. According to Milan tradition, it says, the present nivola, with its complex system of pullies and ropes, was devised by Leonardo da Vinci-no less. It adds, "This thought should make Cardinal Montini feel better at 9.30 a.m. on May 3, when he starts going up and up, swaying slightly."

`Make it Monday'

Now that the tourist season is upon us again. pity those poor people in the Vatican and allied quarters who are plagued with requests, not to say demands, by visitors who imagine that private audiences with Pope John can be had for the-or at any rate their


It was made clear soon after the Pope's election that he had found it necessary, because of his always

abnormally heavy routine of "official" duties, to limit drastically audiences and, since his illness, his personal staff have been trying mere desperately than ever to keep him from being overtaxed. But some thoughtless visitors take a lot of convincing.

An American tourist bailed up a Vatican official and not only demanded a strictly private audience, but specified when it would be convenient for him to see Pope John. He had come here all the way from the States just to

see His Holiness, he said, but it would have to be on one of the

only two days he could spare.

"What a pity His Holiness didn't know," said the official-and that was that.

Lots of people "insist" on seeing the 81-year-old Pope. The one catch is that he does not insist on seeing them,


It may madden Lord Beaverbrook, but 60 per cent of Italians voted in a recent public opinion poll in favour of a "united" Europe, which is tantamount to using that naughty term, the Common Market, Most of the other 40 per cent were not outright opposers of the idea, but had either given the matter a thought or weren't prepared to commit themselves. Only four per cent voted dead against the scheme.

In the rest of Europe, those in favour ranged from 87 per cent in Holland and 81 per cent in Germany, down to 27 per cent in little Luxembourg, where almost 70 per cent could not make up their minds.

Poker pianist

I used to see a bit, on and off, of the late pianist Benno Moiscowitch (luring his pretty regular concert tours of Australia and New Zealand in the old days. He was a good companion of good companions of mine. He was also a cards addict, who loved poker and long, all-night sessions of it at that.

He would often play right up until it was time for hint to prepare for a recital, then return and join the "school" after he had delighted his audience, 1 recall one time when he left a table, jokingly apologising for letting a concert interrupt his play. but promising to hurry hack as soon as it was over. "Keep the encores short", shouted an opponent, who was just beginning to win from the virtuoso and could hardly wait for a "killing".

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