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Posted by ToursItaly on April 15, 2014
Forget the Easter bunny! Celebrating Easter in Rome is among the richest of Italy vacations, bringing together hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to see the Pope celebrate Mass at historic St. Peter’s Basilica.
The week leading up to Easter, known as Holy Week to Christians in the Catholic tradition, is a particularly exciting time for Italy Tours no matter what your faith background. Easter is the biggest holy day for Catholic Christians and follows a 40-day period of fasting, reflection, and penance called Lent. This is a time to see the traditions of the Church as well as discover the secrets of the Sistine Chapel.
Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, which commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. He humbly rode a donkey and believers placed palms before him, which is why if you go to any Catholic church you will find palm branches blessed for churchgoers to hold in a procession.
Expect to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis at some point if you are near the Vatican over Holy Week, but it may be from a distance as part of the throngs of thousands. Here are the events over which the immensely popular Pontiff typically presides:
Holy Thursday morning: The blessing of holy oils is typically at morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the late Renaissance church known the world over for the artwork by numerous celebrated artists but most notably Michelangelo.
Holy Thursday evening: Which is the start of the three-day Triduum and commemorates the Last Supper with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, when just as Christ washed the feet of his disciples the Pope washes the feet of priests or others (in 2013 he made headlines for washing the feet of juvenile prison inmates) as a gesture of love and service.
Good Friday afternoon service: A long service to recount the Passion of Christ and mark the hour of his crucifixion and St. Peter’s is packed (tickets are arranged months in advance so unless you have arranged for seats expect to stand or join pilgrims in the square); this is a day of fasting and solemnity.
Stations of the Cross: While throughout Italy faithful Catholics will commemorate the Via Crucis in churches or even in the streets, it is customary for the Pope to lead the fourteen Stations of the Cross outside the ancient Colosseum in several different languages before blessing the crowds. Want to take a walking tour to unearth the secrets of the Colosseumbeforehand?
Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night: After sunset, the hours-long solemn Easter Vigil starts with the church in darkness until the officiant blesses a new flame as a symbol of how the resurrection of Jesus dispelled the darkness of death with promise and hope. The Paschal candle, which will be used at baptisms, funerals, and weddings throughout the coming year, is lit and Mass continues with scripture readings, welcoming new members of the Church through Baptism and Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.
Easter Sunday Mass: St. Peter’s Square is full on Easter morning, when the Pope says Mass and gives the much anticipated Urbi et Orbi (to the City and the World) address to those gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
After 40 days of fasting during Lent, Easter Sunday is a party with a huge focus on food! Again, think beyond the chocolate bunny or egg to rich traditional dishes of lamb or goat and a wealth of vegetable dishes. In addition to hollow chocolate eggs, special Pane di Pasqua (Easter breads) are plentiful - some sweet and others more light and plain but all artfully braided around colourful hard cooked eggs. Why eggs - chocolate or otherwise - at Easter? To symbolize new life.
Easter Monday the fun continues with outdoor festivities all over Italy and of course in Rome with music, feasting, and dancing. Rome this year will be packed the week after Easter because on April 27th, which is Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II. The world will be watching to see these two beloved former Popes declared saints and you can expect great numbers will be gathering in Rome for the occasion.
A trip to Rome just isn’t complete without a small group walking tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, especially near Easter. Avventure Bellissime’s expert tour guides will share fascinating stories about the history, including tales about former Popes and the many artists who contributed to the beauty of the buildings. Plus you can count on “skip the line tickets” for our tours.
The Avventure Bellissime team is excited to help you plan your next Italy trip and ready to suggest Rome tours and other exciting excursions. Click here to get started.