Vatican Corner 03-25-18


For 32 years the solemnity of Easter has been celebrated in Saint Peter’s Square decorated with flowers, plants and trees transported there from the Netherlands. That country is the world’s largest exporter of flowers and has been in charge of the Easter decorations in the Square ever since Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Netherland s in 1985. On that visit Pope John Paul II saw beautiful displays of flowers organized by the Dutch national flower society. As a side note, that same papal visit received a storm of protest from Dutch Catholics wanting more liberal church policies on women’s rights and sexual issues. In one incident protesters threw rocks and bottles at the Pope’s car, with 8 people injured and 14 arrests. Despite all that, the Vatican gave the permanent Easter decorating job to the Netherlands. Last year in 2017 approximately 35,000 plants and flowers were trucked from the Netherlands to St. Peter’s Square, arriving with a team of 25 florists and Paul Deckers – coordinator for the past 30 years. Months of planning had previously taken place, beginning in autumn. In February the bulbs are put in greenhouses at specific temperatures. A couple of days before departure the temperature is changed to ensure that they will bloom precisely on Easter Sunday. They are transported in refrigerated trucks the 1,000 miles. There is so little “me available when at the Square that meticulous preparation is needed. The flower arrangements are made on Good Friday. The positioning of the flowers in the Square takes place on Saturday with special consideration given to prevent disturbing the Mass or the television shots of the Mass that are to be sent around the world. Finishing touches and final checks take place in the early hours of Easter Sunday. Last year the florists created long lines of yellow, white, red and orange tulips, blue and white hyacinth and yellow narcissus. The colors yellow and white usually prevail since they are the colors of Vatican City. There was an abundance of lilies, the symbol of purity and the icon of the Virgin Mary. Last year the new Roselily was used in many spots, it is an Oriental Lilly with a light pleasant fragrance, but with the absence of pistils, meaning no pollen to stain fabrics. Also, much used were randiflora Avalanche, a unique group of overhanging hybrid petunias and great spheres were created with the pale rose and salmon rose varieties. Birch trees, flowering limes, blue Delphiniums, white Avalanche roses, plum and cherry trees were also used. Immediately after Mass, Pope Francis wished the whole team from the Netherlands a happy Easter and personally thanked them for their beautiful work. After Easter Sunday the fresh flowers are distributed to nearby churches and monasteries. The open-air decorations remain for a few days and then the Vatican gardeners clear everything away with the bulbs and plants relocated to the Vatican gardens.