Pentecost at the Pantheon

On the Feast of Pentecost – that is, today – there is a beautiful and ancient custom in Rome of dropping rose petals through the oculus of the Pantheon. The Pantheon, as you may know, is an almost 1,900-year-old structure with the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world that still survives to this day. Originally it was a pagan temple; in Christian times it became a Basilica and is also known under its dedication name of “Our Lady of the Martyrs”. At the center of the amazing, ancient dome is the oculus – the opening to the sky (yes, and when it rains, it rains inside the church, and there are little drain holes here and there in the floor).

On the Feast of Pentecost, the firemen of Rome have the honor of dropping fresh red rose petals through this opening, reenacting as it were the miracle of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit, represented by tongues of fire, descended upon Our Lady and the Disciples gathered in the upper room.

Here are some photos I took (with captions):

The firemen were there good and early before Mass to prepare for the big moment.

The firemen were there good and early before Mass to prepare for the big moment.

Thank God it wasn't raining today!

Thank God it wasn’t raining today!

There was an overflow crowd gathered for Mass – and those who didn't participate in the Mass didn't get to witness the "spectacle" from inside the Basilica!

There was an overflow crowd gathered for Mass – and those who didn’t participate in the Mass didn’t get to witness the “spectacle” from inside the Basilica!

While the Deacon was intoning the dismissal at the end of Mass, the firemen started raining down the petals through the oculus opening.

While the Deacon was intoning the dismissal at the end of Mass, the firemen started raining down the petals through the oculus opening. Everyone applauded enthusiastically.

A shot I took with the lens focused on the opening, thus silhouetting everything else. Here you can get a better view of the petals as they were poured through the opening.

A shot I took with the lens focused on the opening, thus silhouetting everything else. Here you can get a better view of the petals as they were poured through the opening.

The choir sang the "Veni, Creator Spiritus" and the petals fell in abundance all during that hymn and even for a while afterwards. I would imagine that hundreds, if not thousands, of roses were used.

The choir sang the “Veni, Creator Spiritus” and the petals fell in abundance all during that hymn and even for a while afterwards. I would imagine that hundreds, if not thousands, of roses were used.

I don't get the impression that there are many fires to put out in Rome on a regular basis, but the firemen at least get other interesting things to do throughout the year, including these special religious events of venerable antiquity.

I don’t get the impression that there are many fires to put out in Rome on a regular basis, but the firemen at least get other interesting things to do throughout the year, including these special religious events of venerable antiquity.

To see exterior views of the Pantheon and learn more about its history, read this Wikipedia article.

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One Response to Pentecost at the Pantheon

  1. Lorrie says:

    Way cool, Father. 🙂

  2. Charlotte says:

    This was so totally cool. I can only imagine what it was like in person! My kids were in awe. Thanks, Father!

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