The history of Cantica begins in December 1858, when the Society of Arts in London, a group of nobles and aristocrats, several of whom had been instigators for The Great Exhibition of 1851, publicly announced its proposal to hold a second international exhibition similar to the previous event. Such exhibitions were an integral part of cultural life in the British Isles. The Commissioners determined that spatial constraints within the exhibition building, which was to be newly constructed in South Kensington, would preclude a large-scale exhibit of musical instruments and the music industry. Given Verdi's prominent international stature as Italy's foremost active living composer in 1862, it may seem curious that the Commissioners first chose Rossini as Italy's national musical representative for the occasion. In fall 1861 Verdi was occupied with the composition of La forza del destino and travelled to St. Petersburg at the end of November to prepare for the opera's production, arriving there on December 6.