Girandola fireworks marking the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul in Rome, Source: Stefano latini roma, on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Rome celebrates its patron saints – Sts Peter and Paul

Rome celebrates its patron saints – Sts Peter and Paul

The Eternal City is also eternally linked to the memory of these two apostles

Every year, on 29 June, the Catholic world celebrates the lives and work of two of the most famous apostles of Christendom – St. Peter and St. Paul. One city, however, is especially attuned to their legacy, and that is the Italian capital, Rome. The Festa di SS. Pietro e Paolo, as it is locally known, is also the patron saint day of the city and it’s a public holiday there.

St. Peter and St. Paul are the patron saints of the Eternal City, with the former being installed as the first bishop of Rome – the position from, which the Papacy evolved. Both of the saints’ lives ended in Rome and since then a feast honouring them has been celebrated, spreading to the rest of the world.

Girandola fireworks

The date, 29 June, commemorates the death of the two men, both of whom are said to be buried at the two basilicas that bear their names: St Peter's and St Paul's Outside the Walls.

The city holiday is normally marked by a spectacular fireworks display, known as the Girandola, which moved from Castel San Angelo to Piazza del Popolo several years ago. The name Girandola refers to the revolving wheel from which the fireworks rockets are fired.

The Girandola idea is attributed to none other than Michelangelo. Perfected later by Bernini, the spectacle was first introduced in 1481 and has inspired writers and artists through the centuries including Dickens, Belli and Piranesi.



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