Are you in Rome on June 29th?
Beware that it is a public holiday in the capital and the Vatican Museums will be closed!
Nevertheless, be ready to spend a great day with a tight schedule if you will join the wonderful celebrations on the agenda!
On June 29th Rome celebrates its two patron saints, the apostles Peter and Paul, and commemorates the day of their martyrdom, that took place on the same day, but in different spots of the city, in 67 a.D.
Two splendid 15th century bronze panels on the central door of St. Peter’s Basilica illustrate the cruel tortures they suffered as Christians.
As a Roman citizen, Paul had at least the right to die quickly.
He was beheaded and, according to the legend, during his martyrdom, his head bounced three times on the ground and each time fountains sprang up, respectively with hot, warm and cold water.
The place was monumentalized with the building of the Church of St Paul outside the walls,
with the main altar erected over the apostle’s tomb.
Peter, instead, the fisherman of Galilee, was damned to a long and suffering death and was crucified upside down, such as criminals and traitors (and Jesus himself), in the Vatican area.
According to the Gospels, he was the apostle who had received from Jesus the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and the one charged with the duty of founding the Church and ruling it as the first pope.
For this reason, his tomb immediately became a place of veneration and was very soon monumentalized. It had St. Peter’s Basilica raised above it, with the main altar built right on top of Peter’s resting place, exactly following the famous words by Jesus “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”.
St. Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding area will be the heart of the celebrations on the Feast of June 29th.
The rituals start inside the church on the evening of June 28th with the dressing of a magnificent 13th century bronze statue of St. Peter as a pope.
The apostle is shown seated on the papal throne in the act of blessing and holding the keys of the Kingdom of Heavens in his right hand, and has very worn feet, because of the million and million kisses and caresses by the faithful through the centuries.
It will be dressed with the magnificent golden papal triple crown, the tiara, on his head and a precious red mantle with golden patterns.
Then, the so-called “vesperoni” will be held, at the sound of the choir of the Sistine Chapel,
followed by the blessing of the “palii”, the white wool scarves destined to the newly-appointed bishops.
The whole surrounding area will have the floor transformed in a marvellous flower carpet on the occasion, the so-called “infiorata”, with hundreds of people working through the night on June 28th to create delicate images on the streets through thousands and thousands of colourful petals.
A spectacle not to miss!
The morning of June 29th is devoted to solemn masses both at St. Peter’s Basilica and at the Church of St. Paul outside the walls. Attending the main ceremony by the pope at St. Peter’s is unforgettable, but remember that you need to book your free entrance tickets in advance
Send a fax to +39.06.69885863 “Prefettura della Casa Pontificia, 00120 Città del Vaticano” with the date and ceremony, the number of tickets, your name and contact details indicated. Once the booking is confirmed, you should pick the tickets at the “Prefettura Vaticana”, St. Peter’s Square, right section of the colonnade, the day before from 9AM till 7PM.
Some of the most fascinating moments of the festivity take place during the night.
Do not miss the lighting up of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and,
while you will be admiring the charm of the lights on one of the tallest and largest religious buildings in the world, also enjoy the antiquity and boldness of the tradition.
Before the advent of electricity, it was done thanks to incredibly brave workers, who defied the danger as acrobats by climbing to the top and then placing and lighting torches and oil lanterns, while being only bonded to ropes and jumping from one to another.
The other great evening event is the Girandola or Pinwheel, a great firework show which dates back to Renaissance times (invented by the genius Michelangelo himself!) and will take place at the Pincio terrace, above Piazza del Popolo at 9PM.
The whole city will honour his patron saints with spectacular day and night events and ceremonies - in the afternoon, you could also enjoy the great sight of a boat race on the Tiber river! Why should you miss them? Come and celebrate with us!
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di Susanna Milani, P.I.11676951004