The main Holy Week events start on April 1 with the Palm Sunday Mass at 9.30 am in St Peter’s Square.
On Maunday Thursday, the Chrism Mass for the blessing of the Holy Oils takes place at 9:30am in St. Peter’s Basilica. Holy Thursday also features the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – at 5:30pm in St John Lateran basilica (officiated by the Pope) – that opens the Easter Triduum that includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Free tickets required for indoor ceremonies at the Prefecture of the Papal Household.
A very peculiar celebration, called “Forty Hours” (this would be the time lapse between Jesus’ death on Friday afternoon and his resurrection on Sunday morning) will take place in the church of Santa Maria dell’Orto in Trastevere from 9pm until midnight with 213 candles and a special machine.
The most intense and fascinating religious celebrations, however, take place on Good Friday as the Church mourns for Christ’s death and the Passion account from the Gospel of John is read and meditated in St. Peter’s (the Pope officiates) at 5pm. At 9:15pm the Pope begins the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum (no tickets required).
An alternative and very popular Good Friday ceremony in Rome – with the Stations of the Cross – is held in Rome at the Sanctuary of our Lady of the Divine Love from 8:30pm.
Out of Rome there are many other interesting Good Friday celebrations. In Nerola, based on work of the Italian director Zeffirelli “Jesus from Nazareth”. In Bracciano 150 people and 50 technicians make the historical commemoration. In Castel Madama this tradition goes back hundreds of years (from 9pm) while in Albano Laziale it “only” started in 1821. Wooden statues are brought around Civitavecchia (from sunset) by hooded people enlightened by torchs and old lamposts. Sezze, “the city of Passion”, also has a very touching Stations of the Cross celebration.
Holy Saturday is the Easter vigil Day. The vigil acutally begins at 9pm in the Vatican with the Pope. Paschal candel is lit since Christ is light and life.
Easter Sunday is the day when Jesus rises. Blessing by the Pope at 10:15am in St. Peter’s square. “Urbi et Orbi” blessing at noon (no tickets required).
For a review of the best events in town during the Easter holidays, such as concerts and exhibitions, read this post.