1) St Peter’s Basilica. Despite the crowds and the security and the “pilgrim registration,” you can’t beat the St Peter’s Holy Door experience. Registered pilgrims start at the Castel Sant’Angelo and are given a Jubilee cross to bear as they walk all along the Via della Conciliazione (which itself means the Way of Reconciliation). They also receive prayers to recite and a list of the conditions of the indulgence. Sometime stragglers meld into the organized groups and one can see the meaning of ecclesia, a convocation of people. A dedicated security line allows relatively swift entry; however, Holy Door traffic is a problem (intersecting tourists coming from the Museums), but the volunteers clear the path for pilgrims. No photos at this door (this isn’t an occasion for pious “selfies,” if you know what I mean) and no decoration either, but you can’t miss them. Surprisingly, they are the smallest doors in the façade but are a splendid 1949 bronze work by Vico Consorti. As you go in, at the pilgrim’s-eye level there are images of forgiveness: the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, Jesus telling Peter he must forgive “not seven times but seventy-seven times,” Peter asking forgiveness for his betrayal, and Christ’s Crucifixion. One walks through these illustrations of redemption, and is immediately confronted with the high cost of our salvation in Michelangelo’s Pietà, strategically placed next to the Holy Door. As we look upon Christ’s lifeless body, Michelangelo draws our attention to Mary as our guide. The Florentine sculptor shows us Mary’s unshakable trust in God, solemn yet calm, continuing to embrace divine will even at the darkest hour. She is a beacon to how we must confront the challenges we will face in our renewed state.
St Peter’s has so many confessors that some have set out their shingles in the most trafficked tourist area, bringing in new penitents by their sheer availability. You can even pray at the tomb of St John Paul II, who led the world into the last great Jubilee. Don’t miss this one!
Should you choose to make your own study of Holy Doors, remember that you can receive an indulgence not only for yourself but for the deceased, so don’t forget your friends and family, or maybe offer an indulgence or two for those victims of senseless violence who will never get a chance to see a Holy Door.