Holy Week in Rome

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Holy Week is a wonderful time to visit Rome. In addition to daily visits to the Scala Santa, and all the papal events, here are my picks for the best liturgical events around the city…

Palm Sunday

Sit by the obelisk for this view.

For a Papal Mass, nothing beats the Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square. It is, by far, my favorite Papal Mass of the year. Mass begins at 9:30 AM, I’d arrive by 7 AM for a decent seat. There is a procession to the obelisk, where the Mass begins, followed by a beautiful procession from the obelisk to the main altar. Following Mass, the Holy Father will drive around the piazza.

This year, I plan to go for the opening procession at the Papal Mass, and then head across town for the Traditional Latin Mass at Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini. Procession at 10:30 AM and High Mass at 11 AM.

Monday of Holy Week

Scourging Pillar

Today is the Station Church Mass for Santa Prassede. While I love attending all the Lenten Station Church Masses, the ones this week are especially lovely. Santa Prassede has the Pillar of the Scourging on display year round, but today, and only today, they also bring out relics from the Crown of Thorns and the Seamless Garments. Mass is at 6 PM. The church is located right across from Saint Mary Major.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Today’s Station Church is Santa Prisca.

Wednesday of Holy Week

Today’s Station Church is Saint Mary Major. The big celebration, with a solemn procession, begins at 5:30 PM.

Thursday of Holy Week

Altar of Repose at Sant’Agostino

The Holy Father leads the Chrism Mass this morning at 9:30 AM in the Basilica. Tickets are required, but rarely checked for this Mass.

I recommend a big lunch and an afternoon nap, because tonight is Catholic Rome at its finest! Attend Mass of the Last Supper anywhere, though the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran has a relic of the Table from the Last Supper, so that’s a decent place to go (5:30 PM). But after Mass, visit as many churches as you can. Imagine over 900 churches going all out for their Altars of Repose. Many churches stay open until midnight. I absolutely love going from church to church. Stick to the Historic Center and via Giulia if you want to get as many churches as possible.

Some favorites… Saint Mary Major, Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini (it’s really hard to leave this one), Sant’Agostino, Sant’Anna. Just stroll and pop into as many as you can. There’s no better night in Rome!!!

Good Friday

The True Cross

Without a doubt, the highlight of your Lent, will be Good Friday at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. This church contains the Relics of the Passion. On Good Friday, for Veneration of the Cross, they actually bring out the Holy Cross. Mass is at 3 PM. Expect a large crowd. It’s not everyday you get to kiss the True Cross. Then go over to the Scala Santa.

Tonight at 9:15 PM is the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis at the Colosseum. While it looks pretty, I’ve never had any desire to go. Closed streets, huge crowds, and small spaces. Not really my thing. No tickets are required and if you want a decent spot, you should arrive hours ahead of time. On the plus side, it’s a short 20 minute walk from Santa Croce.

Holy Saturday

Best seat in the house (for about 10 minutes)

If you can get into the Easter Vigil at Saint Peter’s Basilica, go! It’s a beautiful Mass. Tickets are required, really hard to get, and there’s no way to sneak into this one. While it’s best to get on the center aisle for the procession, my favorite spot for this Mass is near the back of the church. Just before it begins, the lights are turned off. From the back of the church you can see all the statues backlit, and it’s incredible. If you are close enough to the main door of the church, you also might be standing right beside Pope Francis when he comes in to light the candles.

Easter Sunday

We had pretty good seats our first year in Rome (2014).

Back to the Vatican. I love the Easter Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square. Tickets are required, but never checked. After Mass, the Holy Father drives around the Piazza before rushing to the central balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica for the Urbi et Orbi. And I mean this… go for the blessing, but stay for the bells. These are the second best bells of the year. Mass begins at 10 AM, but arrive by 7 AM for a good seat.

Disclaimer: This is Rome. Sometimes things close. Sometimes relics may not be on display. Sometimes only one section of the church gets to kiss the True Cross. Stay flexible and enjoy your visit!