Dutch flowers back in St. Peter’s Square in Rome at Easter

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It has become a more than good custom that at Easter, during the Holy Mass celebrated by the Pope, all kinds of colorful flower arrangements decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in Rome. The tradition originates from the moment in which Dutch florists decorated the square for the beatification ceremony of Titus Brandsma in 1985 and has since become a symbol of the good relationship between The Netherlands and the Vatican. Also, this year, large amounts of Dutch flowers will transform the square into a hugely colorful spectacle. Under the leadership and inspiration of Piet van der Burg – chief arranger of the project, who hails from Berkel en Rodenrijs – flower bulb growers, cut flower growers, and growers’ associations have been working hard for months now to realize the Dutch floral splendor in the Vatican once again. Various parties from the floriculture sector contribute to the success of the project with their products and services. The financial support of a number of important sponsors also makes it possible to let all the flowers, as well as the group of volunteers who will give it all its final shape and layout in Rome, shine in full bloom in St. Peter’s Square in time.

Transport company Van der Slot from Noordwijkerhout – involved in this Easter flower tradition from the very beginning in 1986 – will once again ensure that all flowers and other materials reach their destination in Vatican City. On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, Van der Slot Transport will leave with a big truck combination full of Dutch products. After all the flowers have been blessed during a ceremony at Keukenhof in Lisse, the transport goes straight to the Eternal City – Rome. Monsignor Hans van den Hende, bishop of the Diocese of Rotterdam – to which Lisse also belongs – and also president of the Dutch Bishops’ Conference, will perform the blessing at 11:30 AM. From 11:00 AM that morning, the gates of Keukenhof are open to anyone who wants to be present at this ceremony.

In Rome, head arranger Piet van der Burg, supported by a team of volunteers, will steer the entire operation of the flower decorations in the right direction. On Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024, the Dutch flowers will be officially presented to Pope Francis by the Frisian Church – the Dutch Roman Catholic parish in Rome, where Revd. Antoine Bodar is the rector. “The Solemnity of Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, always represents a new beginning, new hope, new life,” Revd. Bodar says. One could actually say that, especially in our current time, seeing the state of the world today, the message of Easter (the victory of life over death), also expressed in the beauty of the flowers in St. Peter’s Square, is perhaps more urgent than ever.

Floral splendour
The floral décor adorns more than 170 square meters of St. Peter’s Square with dozens of arrangements around the high altar, on the stairs, and on the central balcony of St. Peter’s basilica – from where Pope Francis will pronounce the papal blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and to the world”). In this way, the Dutch floriculture sector displays a unique and wide range of products to the world. The entirety will be an interplay of mixed colors, in which purple, yellow, and white predominate. The well-known bulb flowers traditionally form the basis of the entire arrangement, with the cut flowers incorporated colorfully. This year, the gerbera will be the main flower. Growers’ association Summit Gerbera is donating no fewer than 3,500 large-flowered and mini gerberas in a wide variety of colors. Meijer Roses from Pijnacker is making 1,200 white and purple/pink Avalanche roses available in this edition. Evanthia and FlowerXL are bringing 1,000 robust stems of matthiola StoX in 4 colors and the Zentoo Growers’ Association is contributing 600 stems of single-flowered chrysanthemums. Vreeken Bouvardia and Peelen Anthuriums offer beautiful cut varieties. Delphinium nursery N.G. Wigchert from Noordwijkerhout is a regular sponsor with richly flowering delphiniums in three colors. Tak Global, in collaboration with Coloríginz / OZ Import, adds forsythia and a wide range of cut foliage.

This year, there is also a large-scale contribution from the flower bulb region, with more than 21,000 flower bulbs. UNEX Inc. from Voorhout sponsors all tulip bulbs. Roma Nova and nursery Van Der Slot Lisse facilitate the cultivation until flowering. Last year, Mr and Mrs Oskam – owners of the firm W. Oskam & Zn. BV from Voorhout, which annually supplies their Tête-à-Tête daffodils to the flower project – received a papal decoration for their continuous contribution. Also, this year, they will grow the flower bulbs in containers, which will adorn the steps of St. Peter’s Square over a length of 465 meters. And so this colorful tradition continues – thanks to the generosity, support, and efforts of many.

On Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024, the entire Easter High Mass will be broadcast from Rome by broadcaster KRO-NCRV, from 9:50 AM on TV channel NPO 2 – followed by the Pope’s traditional blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and to the world”) at 12:00 PM. This year, there is once again plenty of attention in the media for the flower gesture from the Netherlands. KRO-NCRV will also broadcast a report between the end of High Mass and the “Urbi et Orbi” (so sometime between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM), in which the viewer is taken from a number of occasions during the preparation period in The Netherlands to the unfolding of the floral splendor in St. Peter’s Square. This report will be repeated in the KRO-NCRV program “Kruispunt” at 05:30 PM, again on TV channel NPO 2.

With all broadcasts together, the flower decorations will be shown extensively. Worldwide, the Easter Mass in Rome, which is broadcast and shared by the Vatican media, is watched by millions of people. Vatican News offers video, radio, podcasts, images, news, and audio in more than 30 languages. It has seen the number of visitors and pages viewed online grow strongly in recent years.

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