Wondering what the Easter celebrations in Rome are like?
What are the key dates and events to know?
What you can do in Rome during Easter week? Read on to find out!
Easter in Rome goes on for quite some time, starting with Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent, continuing through Holy Week, and finally finishing on the Pentecost.
Because the timing of Easter varies, the dates and key celebrations are different each year - read on to find out everything you need to know about Easter in Rome, Italy in 2023:
While there are many important dates across the whole of the Easter period, these are the most important celebrations for Easter in Rome.
Read on to find out more about what they mean, what you can expect, and how to join in the celebrations:
In addition to the in-person Easter masses and events in Rome, the main celebrations will also be broadcast on the Vatican's official YouTube channel online.
So you can still join in even if you can't be in Rome yourself!
To see detailed and updated information about all Vatican events over Easter, visit the Vatican website.
Click the link for the Calendar, and go to the month in question - be aware that it's only updated a couple of months in advance. (Actually, since Covid, the calendar is often only updated a few days in advance so keep checking!)
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is actually the very first part of Easter. In 2023, Ash Wednesday falls on February 22.
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting, representing the time Christ spent fasting in the wilderness.
You may see people with ashes on their forehead on this day, as the special mass that takes place on Ash Wednesday is all about penitence and reflection ahead of the long Lenten period.
There are two main Easter celebrations in Rome on Ash Wednesday.
Pope Francis, in an ancient tradition revived by Pope John XXII in the 1960's, will first hold a liturgy at the church of Sant'Anselmo on the Aventine hill (right by the famous keyhole with the view of St Peter's Basilica).
From there, he will lead a penitential procession to the nearby basilica of Santa Sabina, where he will hold a Holy Mass with the blessing and imposition of the Ashes.
If you want to attend either event, it's free but you will need tickets. Here's how to request them.
Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week, the seven days leading up to the main Easter weekend.
It commemorates the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, where he was greeted by crowds of people laying palm branches at his feet.
The main Easter celebrations in Rome start on Palm Sunday, when the Pope holds a special mass in St Peter's Square, Vatican City.
Rome during Easter week 2023 starts on Palm Sunday, April 2
Starting at 9:30am in St Peter's Square, there is a Blessing of the Palms and Holy Mass conducted by Pope Francis.
It's free to attend this mass but you do need a ticket. Get there early, be prepared to stand for a long time, and be prepared for crowds.
Holy Thursday is the day when the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples is remembered, along with Jesus washing their feet (the name 'maundy' comes from the term for this rite).
On Maundy Thursday, there are two masses you can attend, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
In 2023, Maundy Thursday falls on April 6.
The Pope will perform a morning mass in St Peter's Basilica at 9:30am.
This is an unusual Mass as it's one of the rare ones during the year held in the morning.
And, it's probably your best chance at seeing the Pope with a slightly smaller crowd than you will find on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.
In the evening, at 5:30pm, there is a second papal mass, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, held in Basilica of St. John Lateran, to commemorate Christ’s bathing of the Apostles’ feet.
Rome during Easter week 2023 culminates in Good Friday, the day commemorating Jesus' crucifixion and his death.
It is traditionally a day of fasting and solemnity, and across Italy, you will often see processions representing the Passion of Christ.
On Good Friday there are two events to know about.
In 2023, Good Friday falls on April 7.
The main event on Good Friday takes place in the evening.
At 9:15pm, the Pope will lead the stations of the cross, or the Via Crucis, near the Colosseum.
This ritual procession commemorates the fourteen stages of Christ's passion.
At each station, the Pope reads a meditation in various languages.
The whole time there is a huge cross with burning lights in front of the Colosseum.
This can be a very moving and unique experience during the Easter celebrations in Rome, even if you are not religious.
Holy Saturday, or Easter Saturday is the final day of Holy Week.
This is the day that Jesus's body was left in his tomb, and so limited services take place, with no masses, ahead of the start of the Easter vigil in the evening.
In 2023, Holy Saturday falls on April 8.
At 8:30 PM, the Pope will hold an Easter Vigil in Saint Peter's Basilica, ahead of the start of Easter Sunday.
During this service, adult converts to Catholicism are officially welcomed into the Church.
Easter Sunday is the day that Jesus was resurrected, establishing him as the son of God.
It is a day of celebration, of rebirth and new life, marking the end of Lent.
It is also officially a public holiday in Italy so you may find that some places are closed - although a lot of businesses and offices are closed on Sundays anyway.
In Rome, Easter Sunday is all about the Vatican, with two big events.
Easter Sunday in Rome 2023 falls on April 9.
First, the Pope will lead Easter Mass in Saint Peter's Square.
The service begins at 10:15 AM, but if you have a ticket and plan on going, you should arrive much earlier than that.
After the mass, at noon, the Pope will then come out onto the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica, and deliver the blessing known as the Urbi et Orbi - "to the City and to the World".
You do need tickets for the mass, but not to watch the Urbi et Orbi.
Easter Monday, called Pasquetta, ('little Easter'), or "Lunedì dell'angelo", which means Monday of the Angel, is a public holiday in Italy.
Banks, many shops, and some restaurants will be closed, although you will find plenty of restaurants open this day.
In 2023, Easter Monday falls on April 10.
In addition to the fun of the Pasquetta, you can also attend the Easter Monday address by the Pope in Saint Peter's Square at noon.
It's free and no tickets are required - this does mean that it is a very popular event, so be prepared for crowds!
Pentecost is the festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, fulfilling Christ's purpose to return the Holy Spirit to the world.
It is held on the seventh Sunday after Easter, and marks the end of the Easter period.
In 2023, Pentecost Sunday is on May 28.
The Pantheon is still an active church, and in a special event during the Sunday Mass on Pentecost Sunday, thousands of red rose petals are showered through the oculus by Rome's firemen.
This is a unique experience - if you can get in!
There are only so many people that can fit inside the Pantheon, with priority given to locals who are members of the congregation.
The mass starts at 10:30am, so I would recommend getting in line by 8:00am at the latest to be in with a chance to be inside.
It's free to attend all the masses at the Vatican listed above, but tickets are required.
You do not need tickets to attend the Pope's procession of the via Crucis at the Coliseum, or for the Urbi et Orbi audience.
Click to visit the Prefecture of the Papal Household, where you can download the form to fill out with your request.
You just need to fax it in and wait to hear back.
You will get an answer only if you are granted tickets.
They will let you know when and where to pick them up.
As you can imagine, St Peter's Basilica is a hub of activity and crowds throughout Easter weekend.
It is always free to visit the basilica but during the Easter celebrations in Rome, the basilica will be closed for visits during papal masses, so always check in advance of a planned visit.
If you want to visit St. Peter's dome, you can visit it only when St. Peter's Basilica is open.
The Vatican Gardens are closed to visitors throughout Easter, reopening the day after Easter Monday.
The tomb of St. Peter, also called the Vatican Necropolis, is closed during the full period of Easter celebrations.
For lots more information about Easter in Rome, take a look at my page here!
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