The magical appearance of “La pioggia di petali di rose” or the rain of fluttering rose petals coming down from oculus of the Pantheon is beautiful and spectacular in every way! Although nobody really knows it origins, it is assumed that it dates back to the times of the early Christians, though there are also people who believe that on May 13, 609 (AD) the first celebration of the rose petal ceremony took place, after the inauguration of the Pantheon as a church. In 608 the Byzantine emperor Focas bestowed the Pantheon as a gift to Pope Bonifatius IV, who converted the building into a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. After being suspended for many years, oddly enough only in 1995, Archbishop Antonio German resurrected this tradition on Pentecost Sunday and it is now called “la Domenica delle Rose – the Sunday of the roses”.
The ceremony starts with the Mass of Pentecost (50th day after Easter) that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles. At the end of the Mass five fire fighters climb to the top of the dome with seven canvas bags containing red rose petals. The seven bags were donated by the town of Giffoni Valle Piana in the province of Salerno. After reaching the top of the dome (at a height of 43 meters) the five fire fighters begin to drop thousands and thousands of red rose petals through the ‘eye in the sky’, the large circular aperture of 8,92 meters in diameter, that radiates light and heat inside the Pantheon.
The “rain of red roses” symbolizes the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of flames on the day of Pentecost. The fluttering petals initiate a striking, almost magical sight. While the choir sings the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” the red rose petals slowly descend in rays of sunlight to create a drizzling rain that will form a red carpet on the floor of the Pantheon. Some of the participants even gather up armfuls of petals and launch them in the air, which symbolizes rejoicing in the presence of the Holy Ghost. At the end nobody goes home empty handed, all people present were given a red rose.
Sunday, May 19, 2013 (Pentecost) the rain of red rose petals starts between the hours of 11:30 – 12:00 AM. Mass service begins at 10:30 AM. It is wise to turn up early, because seating is only available to those attending the mass first.
Pantheon or S. Maria ad Martyres
Piazza della Rotonda,