I will preface this story with the fact that while I am a holder of a Religious Studies degree, I am personally not religious. This experience was incredible, however. If you happen to be in Rome over Pentecost, you must make a stop at the Pantheon.
I had no idea what I was wandering into, only that I had all day to wander and the Pantheon was on my list of attractions to be seen. I arrived at the ancient site a little before noon. There was a large crowd outside and I'm a big believer in crowds knowing more than I do in most circumstances, so I joined in. We waited in front of the closed door for a good fifteen minutes or so. This was not a hardship.
Just observing the building from the outside was fascinating and looking at evidence of how it has been changed and adapted over more than a millenia is a wonderful way to spend some time. I had no idea what to expect when they finally opened the doors.
They let us all in in a flood of people and we all spread out around the edges of the round room. The center was roped off and filled with folding chairs for the mass that was coming to a conclusion. We were able to hear the final minutes of the mass be sung in Latin and the sound bounced around the dome, echoing. When the mass concluded, everyone's eyes turned upward. There is a hole in the top of the dome, the only way they would prevent the heavy stone from caving in. The weather was sunny and fine this day and the sunlight was streaming in. Then rose petals began to fall down through the opening.
They caught the sunlight and it looked like they were catching fire as they fell. They kept falling for what felt like forever and everyone just stood and watched as they fell all over the whole congregation.
I learned later that this is an annual celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit. All I knew at the time was that being in this ancient building, listening to Latin verses bounce and echo along the walls and seeing rose petals fall from the sky was definitley going to be the highlight of my trip to Rome.
Check your calendars if you're headed to Rome in the Spring and if your trip falls over Pentecost, by all means make the time for this most unique Roman experience.