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Cathedral Crashing at St. Peter’s Basilica

Trapped in the Procession at St. Peter’s Basilica

I walked in a packed parade of singing Italians, dying to escape. Two wooden barriers trapped me in line as I was swept through the center of St. Peter’s Basilica, trying not to look so out of place. Tourists were snapping pictures of this surprise parade, yet I wondered how I got stuck here. Italians stood on either side of me, singing songs and praising Jesus; a man wearing a white robe holding a large golden cross led the procession. With no other options, I kept parading along looking for a way out.

How did this happen?!

St. Peter's procession
St. Peter’s Basilica daily procession

It goes like this: we had finally made it out of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, and I was ready for some gelato. Of course, both structures are incredible, but all of the amazing artwork tends to run together.


St. Peter’s Basilica is a church dedicated to the Apostle Peter, as his tomb lies there. Built toward the end of the Renaissance, it took outstanding architects like Michelangelo, Bernini, and many others one hundred twenty years to complete one of the most important churches in the world. In front of the Basilica lies St. Peter’s Square, the piazza which can hold eighty thousand people that flock to hear the Pope speak as he does weekly.

As we walked out of the Basilica, we saw a group of people standing on a balcony, looking down at a group of singing people. We made our way over and saw a parade, lead by two rows of priests in white robes. The priest in the center on the front row carried a golden staff with a large cross on top. The priest behind him carried the Bible with a fancy metal cover.

Approaching St. Peter's

Man in white robe carrying staff leads procession into St. Peter's Basilica

We ran down the stairs and stood against the outer walls of the Basilica as the parade started walking toward the church singing Italian praises. We followed them as they headed into the church. We were about to leave, again, when my dad had to say, “Let’s get in it!”

Joining the Procession

My dad is all kinds of crazy, but this was a whole new level. He jumped into line, and we saw no other option but to do the same. I stood next to my mom and sister who were mumbling noises, trying to sound like everyone else. I stood on the outside edge of the parade, smiling at all the tourists trying to take pictures of the Italian parade, but instead were snapping photos of American girls awkwardly parading along.

Huge crowd of people inside St. Peter's Basilica
Swept into the procession, we see no way out

It was impossible to escape. On either side of us stood three foot high wooden barriers to keep tourists out of the way of the parade, or in our case, inside of it. They were too tall to jump without looking like freaks, so we had to keep walking in the procession and try to blend in. With our fair skin and camera in hand, I don’t think we were doing a great job “blending.”

My mom mumbled in my ears, “As soon as you see an opening in the barriers, get out.”

wooden barriers
The wooden barricades provide no escape

I nodded at her. She and Riley were having to stare at the ground to contain their giggles. I looked ahead and saw where the barrier ended. As soon as we could, we jumped out fast, and just in time too. Not only had the center aisle of the Basilica been blocked off for them, but they had blocked off St. Peter’s tomb as well. The singing continued as the priest and devoted Catholic parishioners chanted and sang around the tomb, and all the tourists stood watching confused.

Eventually, we flagged down an officer, who didn’t seem at all fazed by this interesting turn of events. We asked him what was going on and he told us that these priests and devoted Catholics come every day in a procession, and worship at St. Peter’s tomb.

The faithful praying over St. Peter’s tomb, and the tourists kept at bay

Okay, so this wasn’t some rare Catholic parade we crashed. It was just a daily Catholic ritual that we jumped in on.

After 20 minutes or so, the procession began to make its way out of the church, still singing. We moved out of the way this time. We were not going to jump back in again.

When we finally made it out of the Basilica, we let out the laughter we had been containing. We’re not exactly sure if we are now Catholic for participating in this religious event.

So if our Methodist friends don’t see us at church when we return, we are probably down the road at the Catholic church.

If you’re Protestant, you might be interested in What to Expect When Visiting a Baptist Church in Muslim-dominant Malaysia.


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