Today is Immaculata, a feast day dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It’s a national holiday in Italy but since I’m not Catholic (and in fact grew up in the Protestant tradition) I had never heard of it until a friend mentioned it yesterday. After doing a bit of research I learned that it’s sort of a big deal—big enough that the Pope comes out to give a public blessing and pay homage to the Virgin.
Now a chance to see the Pope in the flesh, Popemobile and all, was too good to pass up so I walked over to the Spanish Steps and took my place with the hundreds (thousands?) of other people packed into the piazza. By the time I arrived at 3:30pm (the blessing started at 4pm) I could barely find a spot on the Steps so I can only imagine what time the folks with the front row seats got there.
I couldn’t see the entire ceremony from where I was standing on the steps (the Pope places a garland of flowers on the statue of the Virgin Mary at the other end of the piazza) but I did get to see the military guys come in, the whole motorcade procession and THIS: