What is Good Friday like in Rome?   
Italian Easter traditions explained

Easter in Rome is a special time,
but what is Good Friday in Rome like?

We examine the meaning of Good Friday,
and look at things to do in Rome at Easter.

what is good Friday
The Good Friday torchlight procession makes its way from
the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill.

What is the meaning of Good Friday?

'Good Friday' in the Christian faith is remembered as the day on which Christ was crucified.  It is the most solemn day of the Christian calendar.

In English-speaking countries the origins of the name 'Good Friday' are uncertain - possibly a derivation of 'God's day'. In Italy, however, there's no doubt about the origins or meaning of 'Good Friday' because the day is called 'Venerdì Santo' - Holy Friday.

For other Easter words and phrases have a look at our page of Easter sayings in Italian.

What is Good Friday in Rome like for kids?

In our experience, not great. It's crowded and there's a lot of waiting around to be done.  Kids are likely to become bored and fractious.

There are many other things to do in Rome for kids at Easter, but the Good Friday services are not a child-friendly idea.

What is Good Friday like in Rome?

Easter in Italy is a busy time and the meaning of Good Friday makes this a day of great solemnity and ritual. Although Easter traditions mean that many Italians either fast on Good Friday or eat only fish, you will have no difficulty being served in restaurants.

For general information about business opening, transport and climate have a look at our guide to basic Italian Easter facts.

What is Good Friday tradition in Rome?  :
St Peter's Basilica, and the Good Friday
liturgy of the Passion of Christ

Good Friday is the Friday immediately before Easter Sunday.  In 2012 it will be celebrated on April 6th.

what is good Friday
The Good Friday service at St Peter's, Rome.

Good Friday in Italy is one of the most important days of the Catholic Church's calendar, and the Good Friday liturgy the most solemn of the Church's year.

All statues and crosses in churches will have been covered in purple or black cloth, and remain so until Easter Sunday. Priests' vestments for any Good Friday liturgy will also be coloured purple, except for the Bishops and the Pope who wear red.

Roman Catholic Easter tradition says that holy mass must not be celebrated on Good Friday, which is a day of mourning. Nevertheless at 5 p.m. in St Peter's Basilica, the Pope celebrates the Good Friday liturgy of the Lord's passion.

Pope Benedict the 16th
The Pope kneels before the cross - Good Friday at St Peter's, Rome.

This is a sung service and is likely to last for at least two and a half hours.  Those attending are invited to kiss the foot of the cross during the service and the Pope takes his turn, approaching the cross with bare feet and bare head, and prostrating himself - or more recently kneeling - before it.

This service requires tickets - which are free, despite what travel agents might tell you.

However, you will need to apply a long time before the event if you want to be sure of getting them; our page detailing some facts about the Pope explains how to do it.

Even with tickets you should still arrive at St Peter's at about 2p.m. if you want to be sure of a seat where you can actually see the Pope.

What is Good Friday tradition in Rome?  :
the 'Way of the Cross'

Good Friday liturgy
Crowds at the Colosseum
on Good Friday.

By far the biggest event of the Friday before Easter is the famous 'Via Crucis' or 'Way of the Cross', also known as the 'Stations of the Cross', when the Pope leads a solemn torchlight procession from the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill.

In this Good Friday liturgy, the fourteen 'stations of the cross' are marked, each signifying a part of Christ's passion and death. Pilgrims carry a wooden cross around each 'station', and for part of the way Pope Benedict the 16th himself takes the cross.

At each station a brief meditation and prayer is offered, at the beginning of which the Pope sings  :

"Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi" (we adore you, O Christ, and we bless you");

and the congregation answers  :

"Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum" (because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world").

At the end of each, the 'Our Father' (Lord's Prayer) is sung in Latin.

What is Good Friday tradition in Rome? :
how and where to see the 'Via Crucis'

This procession is one of the very few Easter traditions in Rome not to require tickets. However, tens of thousands of people attend, no matter what the weather,  so be prepared not to see much of the Pope unless you arrive several hours before the procession starts at 9.15 p.m.

The procession actually starts inside the Colosseum, coming out into the main square outside and going up a steep path onto the Palatine Hill.

Due to his age and the strenuous duties of Easter week, the Pope no longer takes part in the entire procession but presides over it from a vantage point on the Palatine Hill overlooking the Colosseum.

Good Friday liturgy

The most spectacular view is near the Colosseum, where a massive cross lit by hundreds of flares lights the arena in a golden glow. Stand with your back to the Colosseum and find a spot where you can see the canopy under which the Pope will stand. It's directly over the pathway leading from the Colosseum.

Here - given a reasonable zoom lens - you will be able to get some good photographs or video footage of the Holy Father's address.

Be patient. After the 'stations' the Pope gives a short address, at the conclusion of which he gives his Papal blessing on the crowd.

If you do nothing else at Easter in Rome, go to this procession.

Whether or not you're religious, whether or not you're a Christian, whether or not you're Roman Catholic - it's beautifully atmospheric and one of the most memorable things you'll ever see.





Good Friday in Rome to more
Italian culture and customs at Easter

What is Good Friday like in Rome
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