One of the most iconic monuments in Rome, the Pantheon is truly a sight to behold. The 2,000 year old pagan temple-turned church is impressive for its intricate ornamentation, harmonious proportions and its magnificent staying power over the years. It boasts the largest unsupported dome in the world and features an enormous oculus in the center that floods the building with natural light.
The Pantheon is the best preserved building of ancient Rome and has inspired countless buildings throughout the centuries in Italy, Europe and further abroad. Even the Rotonda at the University of Virginia (my alma mater and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site University in the United States!) was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.
It’s a treat to step inside the Pantheon on any day of the year to admire its grandeur but the experience is even more spectacular on Pentecost. Each year, thousands of red rose petals are dropped from the oculus of the Pantheon upon a crowd gathered for Sunday Mass.
Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles during the Feast of Weeks in Jerusalem and the rose petals symbolize this poignant moment in Christian history. Incredibly, the tradition of showering rose petals in the Pantheon dates back thousands of years, probably to the 607 AD when the pagan temple became a Christian church.
Pentecost always falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter – you can consult this calendar for the next date. The mass starts at 10:30am but you’ll want to arrive by 8:00am (or earlier) to ensure you grab a spot in line before the crowds arrive. If you can’t make it to Rome in the spring, you can also view a livestream of the event on Facebook or watch the YouTube video at the bottom of this post.