Duomo of Milan – The Holy Nail
The Duomo of Milan, you know, never ceases to amaze, with its secrets and its hidden treasures. Today we want to talk about a very special object, kept inside: the Holy Nail.
The Holy Nail is a sacred relic displayed in a lantern high above the high altar. According to tradition, it would have been used to crucify Jesus, and then be brought here from Palestine by St. Helen (the mother of Emperor Constantine) around 330 AD.
The point is that the Holy Nail does not resemble a nail at all. First of all, it is made of two distinct pieces of iron. There is a crude metal tip over 20 centimeters long, which ends on the other side (where the head of the nail should be, the part to be hammered in) with a ring. And then there is a sort of bracket or arched “trestle”, with rings at each end. Also, in the shrine in the Duomo, there are pieces of wire.
It is said that St. Ambrose, in 395, explained the strange shape of the relic by hypothesizing that Helen had had the two nails of the cross melted down, one in the shape of a diadem (this is the one in the Iron Crown), the other – the one in the Duomo – in the shape of a horse’s bit, as a gift to her son Constantine.
Recent scientific studies, which have analyzed the problem by studying it in terms of “forces” and “loads”, have led to the hypothesis that those pieces of ancient carpentry are just a necessary apparatus of the horrible instrument of torture that was the cross, designed to inflict excruciating pain to the condemned through the imposition of postures that made it difficult to breathe.
What is certain is that today the Holy Nail is still a mystery that never ceases to fascinate the faithful and the simply curious.