Christmas Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Print
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 25 December 2008 11:02
How many of our Christmas traditions that we consider immemorial are very recent indeed? you know that midnight Christmas mass at St. Peter's is both an ancient and very new development? I watched parts of it yesterday on EWTN with no idea.

Here is a picture of the 1944 Christmas Midnight Mass celebrated by Pius XII. (h/t Monastic Musings)

It was the first midnight Mass at St. Peter's since the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, 800 - 1,144 years earlier. A mere bagatelle! Rome had been liberated just 6 months earlier - and after years of war and occupation, the turn-out for midnight Mass was enormous and I"m sure, heart-felt for many. The joyful American soldiers here are perched onto of a confessional to get a better view.

Here is a contemporary description of Charlemagne's coronation:

"On the day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ all [who had been present at the council] came together again in the same basilica of blessed Peter the apostle. And then the venerable and holy pontiff, with his own hands, crowned [Charles] with a most precious crown. Then all the faithful Romans, seeing how he loved the holy Roman church and its vicar and how he defended them, cried out with one voice by the will of God and of St. Peter, the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, "To Charles, most pious Augustus, crowned by God, great and peace-loving emperor, life and victory."(Salus et victoria) This was said three times before the sacred tomb of blessed Peter the apostle, with the invocation of many saints, and he was instituted by all as emperor of the Romans. Thereupon, on that same day of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most holy bishop and pontiff anointed his most excellent son Charles as king with holy oil."