On 24 October 1918 the Royal Army launched an attack in the Mt. Grappa region, leading to the final defeat of Austria-Hungary after forty-one months of “uninterrupted and cruel” war. Eleven days later, the war bulletin daily drawn up by the Army Chief-of-Staff solemnly proclaimed the cessation of hostilities, the defat and withdrawal of Austro-Hungarian troops and the final decisive victory of the Italian troops.
“The rapid and courageous progress of the 29th armed corps on Trento yesterday caused the total defeat of the enemy. […] The Austro-Hungarian army was defeated. […] The remains of one of the most powerful armies in the world went back disorderly and without hope along the valleys they had descended with proud confidence.” Signed: DIAZ
When, on that same day, the torpedo boat 55AS landed in Zara with the order to hoist the Italian flag at the Town Hall, lowering the flag of Yugoslavia, the population spilled onto the roads and lined the docks. The crowd rejoiced as the long awaited day had dawned. The Italian flag appeared everywhere, amidst flags, rosettes, bouquets of flowers and the loud cry “Viva l’Italia!”. People fell to their knees as the flag passed by. Nobody was unaffected by this powerful scene. Everybody was deeply moved, and the Italian flag flew at the top of the mast before Lieutenant Commander De Boccard approached. Somebody had hoisted the flag as soon as the torpedo boat had entered the port.
The population crowded the streets and squares of every city with growing enthusiasm, singing patriotic songs and celebrating with genuine joy.
The city of Milan met en masse at the Duomo before the many civilian and military authorities, both Italian and of the allied forces. At 3:15 pm of 7 November 1918 Cardinal Archbishop Ferrari appeared in public and made a “very noble, patriotic speech”, which was thus defined in an article of the newspaper Corriere della Sera of the day after the ceremony. The speech is filed in the Archive of Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, along with documents of the Fabbrica’s Administration that established the venues, implementation methods and times of the thanksgiving ceremony for the victory of the Italian army.
The Cardinal’s sermon perfectly combines praise for the military victory of our soldiers and for the moral support given by the prayers of citizens for troops assigned to the battlefront. The crowd met at the main door of the monument that, interwoven with the stripes of the Italian national flag, offered the austere magnificence required to adequately celebrate the latest glorious events, thus showing how the Duomo di Milano plays a special role both in the city’s history and in the heart of its citizens.