Flowers for the Pope “Happy Easter and thank you for the flowers”
Papal Award: “BENE MERENTI”
“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks for the beautiful Dutch flowers at the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square.”
These are the literal words used by Pope Franciscus I during the Urbi et Orbi. Every year at Easter the task of decorating St. Peter’s Square is the responsibility of florists from the Netherlands. Since 1988 Paul Deckers from Posterholt has been an established member of the principal team of arrangers and since 2015 project leader / director of this project. In 2015 Paul Deckers was awarded with the Papal Award: “Bene Merenti”
A genuine Dutch sea of flowers…
The fact that Pope Franciscus I and Pope Benedict XVI have continued the tradition of their predecessor Pope John Paul II is of course fantastic. The florists leave from Schiphol for Rome on Maundy Thursday. The trucks filled with vegetation and flowers depart earlier in the Holy Week and also arrive on Maundy Thursday in Rome.
The choice of flowers vary each year. Think in terms of 30 tons of plants and materials: 15.000 tulips, 2.000 narcissi and daffodils, 3.000 hyacinths, 9.000 individual flowers, 2.000 heathers, 700 trays of violets, 30 large rhododendron, 30 azaleas and 20 metre-high trees.
Months of preparations take place for the journey to the Vatican. All the material is brought from the Netherlands. Flower bulbs are chosen, stored in refrigerated containers and a couple of days before departure are placed in greenhouses in order to ensure that they flower at precisely the right moment.
The meticulous preparation is necessary due to the very limited time available when there. The arrangements are made on Good Friday. The positioning of the flowers in St. Peter’s Square takes place on Saturday. The finishing touches and final checks take place in the early hours of Easter Sunday. The time allowed for working on the plant and flower displays is extremely short. The open air decorations remain for a few days only, after which the Vatican gardeners clear everything away. All the plants are then re-located to the Vatican gardens.
Audience with the Pope
Immediately after the Mass the Pope wishes all the team a happy Easter and personally thanks them for the wonderful decorations. “Every year it is an incredibly beautiful and honorable assignment.”