Pentecost at the Pantheon: rose petals falling through the oculus

In Rome on Pentecost, in the Pantheon, now a minor basilica called S. Maria ad martyres there is a beautiful custom.

Rose petals are dropped through the circular oculus opening at the top of the dome, which is the widest is all of Rome, for all its antiquity.  The petals fall to the crowds below, reminiscent of the coming of the Holy Spirit like tongues of flame.

I posted photos taken over two different years here.  Some show the event from the inside of the Pantheon, and some show the mechanics from the outside.  My room in room is perfectly situated to see the dome of the Pantheon.

Here is how they get it done!  Notice the fire truck parked in fron of the Pantheon.



The firemen, waiting on top of the dome, for the signal to drop the flower petals…

The moment arrives!

From within…

This is one of those lovely customs which we have only in Rome. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Paul says:

    Very nice Father, similar to what happens at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, when a million poppies are
    dropped at the end of the Festival of Remembrance, on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday.

  2. Ken says:

    The first two pictures from within remind me of the final scene in the movie Gladiator, with the rose petals falling in the light.

  3. Gordon says:

    This is one of those customs that survive from a period of greater faith than we have today.(Another custom was to let a dove fly about inside churches as a represention of the Holy Spirit.)These things were done in many cathedral churches in middle ages. It is nice to know they still keep it up in Roma. Of course it does help having ladder company from the local fire department.

  4. Franzjosf says:

    Wonderful. At what point in the Mass do they do it? During the Sequence?

    And at Saint Mary Major they use white petals in August for the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows. I was there for Solemn Vespers on that feast, and the petals fell throughout the Magnificat, with the number of petals practically doubling at the Et in Saecula Saeculorum. Amen. After vespers the faithful gathered them up as sacramentals, probably having been blessed before use?

  5. Matt Q says:

    That is a cool custom, very pious and sentimental. Take the pedals and them in between the pages of one’s Missal. Nice.

    Do the firemen get to look over the edge and wave? I think that would be funny.

    How about, “YO, Vinnie! Your ugly FIAT’s double-parked!!” L O L

    …The flip side of that is who sweeps up after Mass?

  6. Father Bartoloma says:

    This looks very beautiful. I was kind of hoping that there would be a surprise revision of this custom in St. Peter’s this morning, it was one of the charming liturgical customs that Blessed John XXIII revived.

  7. Malta says:

    Tsk,tsk! Tax-payer funded firemen (“firepeople,” rather) dropping rose petals into a church! The shame! Where’s the ACLU in Rome??

  8. Padre Steve says:

    These are some beautiful pictures and the flowers are a wonderful tradition! Keep up the wonderful work on the blog! God bless you! Padre Steve, SDB

  9. It is not precise to state that “This is one of those lovely customs which we have only in Rome”, because
    in Italy we have that custom (and others rather inspiring) in more than one place. For example you can see
    here the video of the rose petal shower held on Pentecost at
    the Benedictin Abbey of Padua. Come Holy Spirit!

  10. Limbo says:

    Lovely post thank you – what a absolutely wonderful custom

  11. Fr. Alessandro: Thanks for that interesting information!

  12. Hilary says:

    Hey! I was there. I was wondering what the firetruck was there for. I went into the Pantheon for a few minutes before Mass. I went up to the chap a the barrier who was keeping the ravening hordes of tourists at bay and, not knowing the Italian for “I want to go to Mass” said, “Orate fratres?” with hands together. He let me in.

    I stuck around for a few minutes just to have a look, but skipped out before the Novusordinary festivities started and headed over to San Gregorio for the real Mass.

    Which was great.

    I saw the rose petals all over the piazza afterwards though.

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