Easter is approaching and while some plan trips and vacations others think about religious traditions. Last week we talked about spending Holy Week in Jerusalem, the cradle of Christianity, and today we return to one of the most important places for those who profess this faith: the Vatican.
If you are very religious you may be interested visit the Vatican at Easter, and if you are not so much anyway these days around here are lived in a really special, unique way. There is not always one in Rome for these special dates, so behold information and some tips to spend Holy Week in the Vatican and experience some of the religious magic, which is not bad for us in these times.
The calendar varies from year to year, the specific dates, but Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday which is the time when Jesus enters Jerusalem and is greeted with palm leaves. According to him Gregorian calendar this 2016 the dates are as follows:
- Palm Sunday: March 20
- Holy Monday: March 21.
- Holy Tuesday: March 22
- Holy Wednesday: March 23
- Holy Thursday: March 24
- Good Friday: March 25
- Holy Saturday: March 26
Now, spending Holy Week in the Vatican has an advantage: There are many events that are presided over by nothing more and nothing less than the Pope. The most traditional festivals are the easter masses which are always celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica. The capacity is limited, of course, and sometimes it can be very difficult to find tickets so if this year you don't make it and you are very interested, in 2017 try to book early. In general, it is enough to make the reservation two months before.
How to book tickets for Easter Mass
What you have to do is send a fax from your country directly to the Vatican between six and two months before mass. It is what tourism agencies do. It is easier to get tickets when the groups are not very large, but if you travel with friends, a request for two to six tickets has a chance of being obtained without problems. The process continues with a Vatican response via mail directly to your address, with the notification that it has received your request and with the information on where you can go to find the answer in the place, in the Vatican Preffetura that is located past the Bronze Doors in St. Peter's Basilica.
This place opens between five and four days before Mass from 8 in the morning to 6 or 7 in the afternoon. Keep in mind that the Vatican does not confirm the tickets until you come to look for them and even at that moment or they can give them to you or they can tell you that there is no availability That is, the Vatican's reply by mail does not assure you that you will get them, that is why it is important that you make the reservation with time and the fewer tickets you ask for, the more chances you have to be lucky. Do not ask for more. Finally, you must visit the website www.papaudience.org and download the ticket request form in PDF. Of course, the tickets are free.
Holy Week in the Vatican
On Palm Sunday the Pope will give an audience in St. Peter's Square. This event is free and open everyone but there are usually a lot of people so if you are in Rome it is best to go early, occupy a place and be willing to wait on your feet for a long time. The procession for the blessing of the bouquets and the Mass take place that same morning starting at 9:30 am in the square. Tuesday mass is inside the Basilica also starting at 9:30 and the Pope then moves to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome, around 5:30 in the afternoon.
On Good Friday there is another papal mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 5 pm and at night the ritual of the Stations of the Cross takes place or Via Crucis near the Colosseum. This event usually begins at 9:15 pm following the stations that in the middle of the XNUMXth century were placed in the Colosseum by Pope Benedict XIV. The seasons are described in various languages and a huge cross stands with burning torches. In the final moments Pope Francis will give blessings so there are a lot of people.
On Holy Saturday from 9 in the morning in St. Peter's Basilica there will be another papal mass and the Easter Vigil. And finally we come to the most important moment of Christian Easter, Sunday. On Sunday another massive mass will take place in St. Peter's Square which usually starts around 10 in the morning. The Pope will give a message and blessings in the loggia of the basilica.
Continuing with the tradition Easter marks the end of Lent so start eating without frugalities. Each town has its own culinary customs but here in Italy you eat pannetone, dishes with lamb, breads and Easter bagels. Easter eggs are also a classic and in the shops of Rome chocolate eggs abound.
In many parts of the world this Christian holiday ends on Sunday, but in others, and in Italy in particular, the following Monday is still a holiday. It is known by the name of Easter Monday and it is a joyous day in which Italians celebrate, get together with friends or family, have barbecues or picnics and leave the city for the sea or the countryside.
I think the best way to end our Holy Week in the Vatican is that Monday walking along the Tiber and finish at Castel Sant'Angelo. In front of this old building a fireworks show tremendous that lights up the river and marks the end of Easter.