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Religious events and holidays in Rome

Pilgrims turn to Rome...

Even though Rome is one of Europe's most populous and busiest urban centers, its spiritual attractions, the churches that tower majestically on nearly every block, easy access to the Vatican, the heavy concentration of monasteries make it a natural destination for Catholics, or anyone else in search of a spiritual retreat.

Inspired by the array of religious enclaves scattered across the city, including the spectacular Vatican museums and St. Peter's Basilica, pilgrimages to holy sites in Rome are a particularly poignant option.

Purists like to focus their Rome pilgrimage around stops at the seven Roman churches designated by the Vatican as key pilgrimage sites:
  • St. Peter's Basilica,
  • St. John Lateran (including the Scala Santa, stairs that came from the house of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem and are said to have been climbed by Christ before his trial),
  • St. Mary Major,
  • St. Paul Outside the Walls,
  • St. Philip Neri,
  • the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem,
  • St. Lawrence.
All are accessible by bus, tram or subway.

Calendar of events and holidays:

October 4: Celebration of St Francis
St Francis, patron of Rome and the Republic, is celebrated with vigour throughout the city every year on his feast day. The most important celebration occurs in the Santa Maria dell' Aracoeli church.
The Santa Maria dell' Aracoeli church is situated next to the Campidoglio, Michelangelo's beautiful square in the centre of Rome.
The site of the church is where the virgin sybil supposedly predicted the coming of Jesus to Emperor Augustus.
Just take Metro Line B from Castro Pretorio for 3 stops and get off at "Colosseo" station. From there, it's 200 metres on foot.

November 1: All Saints Day
Public holiday. Many churches not usually open may be open for visiting this day.

December 8: Immaculate Conception
Public and religious holiday. The pope or his envoy places flowers at the column of the Virgin in Piazza di Spagna.

December 24: Christmas Eve Vigil
Every Christmas Eve, the Pope gives Midnight Mass in St Peter's Square.
December 25: Christmas Day
The Pope gives the Urbi et orbi Message and Blessing.
December 26: Boxing Day
Many Romans visit nativity scenes in churches throughout the city.
December 31: New Year's Eve, Vespers and "Te Deum"Masses are celebrated in churches throughout the city. Traditionally, broken crockery is tossed from balconies, and a great all-night party reverberates in the Piazza del Popolo.

January 1: New Year's Day

January 6: Epiphany
Public and religious holiday, called Befana in Italian. An ordination of new bishops takes place in St. Peter's Basilica.
According to legend, the Three Wise Men on their journey to visit the newborn Jesus, stopped to ask an old woman (La Befana) for food and shelter. She refused and they continued on their way. A few hours later, the old woman glimpsed to the night sky, saw the North Star, and had a change of heart, but the Magi were long gone.
She collected toys from around the house that belonged to her deceased child and went to find the Infant Jesus. She never did find Him and continues roaming the world, every year, leaving presents for children in search of the Christ Child.

Ash Wednesday
Basilica of St. Sabina, Mass, Blessing and Imposition of the Ashes by the Pope.

April 25: Liberation Day

May 1: Labor Day

June 29, 2011: Saint Peter and Paul Day
Public Holiday. Solemn masses are held at St. Peter's Basilica and elsewhere.

August 5: The Miracle of the Madonna of the Snow
Every year a curious legend which narrates the story of the founding of the Santa Maria Maggiore church is dramatised in a solemn mass, where flower petals are scattered on the altar.

August 15: Feast of the Assumption "Ferragosto"