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Rome Reports

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Bagpipe band gifts Pope Francis with more than just music

As Pope Francis concluded the General Audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall, the sound of bagpipes and drums could be heard among the crowd. Before long, many of the remaining attendees began clapping along to the contagious rhythm. 

The tune's performers, a group called Bagpipes of the Dragon, are making their third appearance at the Audience. Although the visits are usually during this season, this year's trip was a bit more meaningful. 

Leader, Bagpipes of the Dragon

“This coming year will mark our 10th anniversary. This is the third time we've come to play for the pope. FLASH We're here to celebrate the pope and his birthday and wish him a Merry Christmas.”

Bagpipes of the Dragon are from the small lakeside town of Bolsena, about 90 miles northwest of Rome. The band's 20 members seek to revive some of the region's medieval culture, complementing their bagpipe and drum numbers with customary attire from the era. 

While maintaining tradition by playing in parades and concerts, the group is also participating in a custom involving the Holy Father that is surely unique. 

Leader, Bagpipes of the Dragon

“We in Bolsena have a tradition of always bringing eels. They're in Lake Bolsena, and for some years we have offered them to the pope. This year, we brought them live. FLASH Dante Alighieri in “Purgatory” talks about the eels of Lake Bolsena, so it's a very old tradition from before the Middle Ages. It's a tribute we make to the pope every year.”

Although the Bagpipes of the Dragon weren't able to meet Pope Francis as they did last year, the group was more than happy to add a medieval touch to the Audience.