Of flower petals, firefighters, dedication, and holes in the roof

Today is the anniversary of the Dedication of the Roman church Santa Maria “ad Martyres“, which took place in 609.  This church is also called the Pantheon.

Since on upcoming Pentecost, Roman firefighters will be dropping red rose petals through the oculus of the mighty building, I figured we could review what I have posted in the past.

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 windon of my room in Rome was perfectly situated to see the dome of the Pantheon.

Here is how they get it done!  Notice the fire truck parked in front 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

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The Masked Chicken says:

    Well, I, for one, am glad that bowling balls do not have any special significance in the Christian religion :)

    On the other hand, how cool that firemen are distributing the, “tongues of fire.” This is like the Trinity and Fahrenheit 451 rolled together.

    The Chicken

  2. Legisperitus says:

    Do they do this at the Gospel?

  3. my kidz mom says:

    @chicken: LOL

    Father, they do this at St. John Cantius in Chicago as well! Beautiful photos at:

    p.s. notice all the young’uns :)

  4. lisa says:

    Thanks for posting this Fr. Z, gorgeous! If I lived near the Pantheon, I would be a Giolitti’s every day;)

  5. lisa says:

    Thanks for posting this Fr. Z, gorgeous! If I lived near the Pantheon, I would be a Giolitti’s every day;)

  6. StJude says:

    That is just too cool!!!

  7. Jeannie_C says:

    Loved this video, thank you for posting it.

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    This is splendid – thank you (and to my kidz mom for the Chicago style)!

    Someone I showed this to was pleasantly surprised that so many Roman fireman did not think like Peppone – or, worse yet, Heliogabalus!:


  9. FranzJosf says:

    They do something similar at the St. Mary Major Basilica on Aug. 5, Feast of Our Lady of the Snow, with white flower petals. I happened to be in Rome that day several years ago and decided to attend Solemn Vespers at the Basilica. Boy was I surprised when, during the Magnificat sung by a huge choir, the petals started falling in front of the altar! It was glorious. It started like a soft, pleasant snow-fall, but by the end of the Gloria Patri it was a storm! After Vespers, the celebrant blessed them, and people took them home as sacramentals. It was wonderful and moving.

  10. Norah says:

    I really liked the idea of this custom but I was a little disappointed to see on YouTube that the petals didn’t fall on the congregation but onto a roped off area and the congregation were gathered around like spectators. Does this fall of petals take place before, during or after the Mass?

  11. VLL says:

    I wish they would do something like this at my home parish. The only good thing about the spaceship we worship in is the oculus in the center of the uh, worship space (is it still a sanctuary?), is wrapped with a “crown of thorns.” That the architects bothered to use *Christian* symbolism at all is a cause for gratitude, I think. Granted, the parish did commission excellent statuary, and celebrates a reverent mass– which distinguishes it most painfully from most other parishes in the area.

    FYI those rose petals can and do fall on the congregation at St. John Cantius in Chicago. I mean, yes, many of them wind up on the hallway floor, but, between cross drafts and aisle seats your chances aren’t bad. You are encouraged to take petals with you as sacramentals.

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