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The very special display at a little known church on Holy Thursday

2015-04-03

From the outside, Santa Maria dell’Orto looks like a typical Roman parish. But on special occasions, visitors to the 16th century church can see a very special sight.

At the end of Mass on Holy Thursday, more than 200 candles on the "Machine” are lit up. The Machine is a nickname for the elaborate structure at the back of the altar. 

DOMENICO ROTELLA
Archbrotherhood of Santa Maria dell'Orto
"It takes almost a full day of work to prepare because the candles must be together in a certain order. Additionally, all of the candles are real. There are no artificial lights.”

The light bulbs were briefly turned off, and only light from the candles filled the church, illuminating frescoes and golden objects. The church itself has an interesting back story.

DOMENICO ROTELLA
Archbrotherhood of Santa Maria dell'Orto
"The church was created to pay homage to Saint Mary. It is located right next to a garden in the Trastevere neighborhood. The devotion to the Virgin comes from a miracle that occurred in the 15th century, when a sick person found an image of the Virgin and was cured.”

Hundreds of people crowded into the building for the event. Anyone who wants to see the wooden candelabrum in action should mark their calendars for Holy Thursday 2016. 


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