For many years, I have been wanting to go to the Pantheon on Pentecost Sunday and this year I decided to do it. Pentecost was a week ago on Sunday, June 8th. I had marked the date on my wall calendar months ago so that I wouldn’t forget. Pentecost falls on the 50th day after Easter Sunday and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and other followers of Christ. In the Old Testament, it was called the Feast of Weeks, occurring 50 days after Passover and it celebrated the end of the grain harvest. In the New Testament, it was associated with tongues of fire coming down on the Apostles as they were celebrating the Feast of Weeks after the Ascension, giving them the ability to speak in foreign tongues and enabling them to spread the Word to people of all languages.
You may be wondering why I wanted to go to the Pantheon on Pentecost Sunday. On this day, firemen climb the Dome and throw red rose petals into the Oculus which is a circular opening at the centre, an amazing sight I believe called ‘La Pioggia di Petali’, the rain of petals . The tradition is believed to date as far back as the 7th century when the pagan temple was converted to a Christian church. Mass on Sunday at the Pantheon is at 10am and the doors open at about 9.30. I knew that I had to get there early so I arrived just after 8 am. To my surprise, the line-up was already around the block. I joined it anyway hoping for the best and as I stood there, the line kept on extending. I’m sure it went as far as Piazza Navona though I obviously didn’t want to lose my place by going to see. The Pantheon holds about 600 people so at best, I hoped I might just about squeeze my way in. At about 9.45, we had reached the Piazza of the Pantheon when we were told that it was full and that the doors were closed.
Such a disappointment, as I could see the firemen at the top. The Piazza was jammed with people and there were various vehicles belonging to the Fire Dept. I don’t even want to try and imagine what would happen if a fire broke out inside during this event as the Pantheon only has one door and no windows.
A Doorman at one of the hotels on the Piazza told me that he started his shift at 6.30 am and that there were already people lining up. Next year, I will go after Mass so that I can at least see the petals on the floor. If you want to see the event, check out this link on You Tube
No photograph of mine could ever capture the firemen at the top nor the magic of the rose petals descending so it’s worth watching if you have the time.