Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s

While I was having hip-replacement surgery in the US, Michael got a ticket for the Easter vigil  at St. Peter’s.  Easter vigil is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter day—most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or at midnight. Here are Michael’s photos and description, with some additions by me:

“The Easter vigil at St. Peter’s on Saturday night was long, ornate, beautiful, and somewhat disappointing. I got into the very long line to enter the basilica at 7:30, and I got to my seat at about 8:30. I sat on the other side of the transept from where we were at Christmas. Unfortunately, most of the interesting pre-mass stuff took place at floor level, well in front of the altar, so I missed all that. Fun nonetheless.”

While the basilica was in darkness, the statues were backlit.

[Note for fellow non-Catholics: At the beginning of the vigil the basilica is in complete darkness. The Paschal candle is lit, and as it is brought through the basilica, the congregants light their own candles, transitioning the basilica from darkness to light and symbolizing Christ’s resurrection, which turned the world from darkness to light. When the Paschal candle reaches the sanctuary, all of the lights in the church are turned on.]

“While the basilica in nearly total darkness was beautiful, the transition to light wasn’t very well choreographed, and the ceremony (which lasted from 9 until after midnight, including the carving of the Paschal candle, the blessing of the baptismal waters, as well as symbolic baptisms and confirmations) was very, very long on words and endless (and unremarkable) Gregorian chant and very short on inspiring music and spectacle. When the choir got to sing, they were mesmerizing, and the few interludes of a five-piece brass ensemble were breathtaking.

“I think this pope has taken some of the life out of Catholic ceremonies in the interest of strict tradition and liturgy. I recall the Easter vigil of my childhood as one of the most inspiring, symbolic, and beautiful ceremonies possible. This one, for all the incredible grandeur of the surroundings and the endless possibilities for pomp and spectacle, didn’t measure up.

“Fortunately, although rain was forecast, there was none in sight while I waited to get in, and none when I walked home.”

Thank you, Michael. It sounds beautiful!


Flowers decorated the front of St. Peter’s for Sunday’s Easter mass.

This entry was posted in Rome churches, Rome seasons and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s

  1. Rossella says:

    I think this Pope s took away more than “some of the life out of Catholic ceremonies in the interest of strict tradition and liturgy” He created aagin a barrier between the Church and his representatives and the people !

    • skdyer7 says:

      Whatever you say, Rossella. I’m not a Catholic, but I love going to St. Peter’s (and the other gorgeous churches in Roma) and the Vatican Museum! Maybe nobody can live up to Pope John Paul II. He was a cutie patootie!

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