December 8th is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. In Rome, there is an annual papal procession near the Spanish Steps. The Pope pays hommage to the Virgin Mary with a procession led by the Order of the Knights of Malta to Piazza Mignanelli at the Colonna dell’Immacolata in the southeastern section of the square. The 40 foot ancient column was found in 1777 under a monestery and was erected in this location in 1856 and a statue of Mary was placed at the summit of the column.
Listen to Luciano Pavarotti singing ”Ave Maria” by Schubert http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPvAQxZsgpQ.
At the annual ceremony, the reigning Pope honors Mary at this location. Listen to what Pope Benedict XVI said: http://bit.ly/fdDphS. After the prayers, the choir sings and one lucky Roman fireman gets to place a wreath of flowers at the top of the column on the Statue of Mary usually on her extended arm. This is a great opportunity to see the Pope in Rome. The Holy Father blesses a basket of roses that are placed at the base of the column. The Mayor of Romeand other civic department heads follow suit.
There is an evening concert at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli on Capitoline Hill. December 8th is a Holy Day of Obligation and a national holiday in Italy. There are celebrations throughout Italy and churches hold special masses to honor Mary. Look for bagpipes throughout Italy today as the Zampognari play “Quando Nascette Ninno” (When the Child was Born).
Visit the renovated frescoes at the “Immaculate Conception Room” at the Vatican Museums painted by Francesco Podesti. The frescoes are an artistic representation of the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception declared by Pope Pius IX.