Holy Week is a wonderful time to visit Rome. Here are my picks for the best liturgical events around the city…
Palm SundayFor a Mass with the pope, 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.
Monday of Holy WeekToday 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 5:30 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
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 FridayWithout 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 – while I know they will process the True Cross today, I can’t guarantee they will allow kissing post 2020. Then go over to the Scala Santa and climb the stairs on your knees.
Pope Francis leads the Passion of the Lord at Saint Peter’s Basilica at 5 PM. Tickets are required, but rarely checked for this.
Tonight at 9:15 PM is the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis at the Colosseum. While it looks pretty, I’ve never gone. But closed streets, huge crowds, and small spaces. Keep that in mind if you are considering going. 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 SaturdayIf 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.
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.