The Sanpietrini and the Illumination of St. Peter's Basilica

Many but perhaps not all LAJ readers will be familiar with the fact that for the greatest of solemnities, the tradition of St. Peter's Basilica was to drape it in festal red hangings and to illuminate it with candlelight. This is a sight that only a small few might now have any direct experience of, but what a sight it must have been to see thousands of flickering flames bathing the architectural details of the basilica in the warm, living glow of candlelight.

The illuminated interior of the basilica is perhaps what is best known to many as it is one of the things we have accessible to us in reasonably modern colour photography.

For those who are wondering how this was accomplished, it was done by the sanpietrini -- essentially the custodial caretakers of the Vatican basilica.  Here's a short video showing them in action when lighting the exterior of the basilica:

You can see them still in action today too if you wish -- and I would hasten to add that this tradition of draping and illuminating the basilica could easily enough be recovered today -- and it should be.  In an era of 'spectacle' this becomes all the more important for the Church if she is to compete for the attention of moderns, if not also inspire and move them.

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