More on the Illumination of St. Peter's Basilica

In July of 2020 we covered the subject of The Sanpietrini and the Illumination of St. Peter's Basilica. In that article we gave some of the background and the mechanics of this practice, showing both interior and exterior images of the same.  Since the writing of that article some more images of this have come to light, specifically of the lighting up of the exterior of the basilica -- which, to remind our readers, was a practice done for the most solemn occasions, such as canonizations. 

The 18th-19th century German writer Goethe, author of Faust, had this to say about his impressions of this noble custom in 1780:

"Enlightenment is a spectacle of the amazing world of fairy tales; you don't believe your own eyes... The beautiful shape of the colonnade, the church and the dome, first of all in a burning fire frame and, after about an hour, in a burning mass, it is a unique and magnificent show to see."

Regrettably, most of us today have been deprived of any opportunity to experience this magnificent spectacle; a spectacle that had the power to capture the heart and mind of Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

A more modern view of this practice can be seen in this photograph of the Vatican basilica illuminated in 1945. 

I have frequently thought to myself that we now live in an age of stadium and cinematic spectacles and within that context it is lamentable that the Church would give up on some of her own ceremonial spectacle at the very time it would arguably most needed if it were to compete against the spectacles the modern world has to offer. 

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.