A wonderful tradition since many years
Flowers from The Netherlands at the Easter Mass in Rome have been a fact for many years. And just like his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks the ‘ Urbi et Orbi’ in mass, and after wishes all contributors a Happy Easter and thanks the team personally for the beautiful flowers at Saint Peter’s Square.
The Pope speaks both the Easter Blessing and the Thank You in Italian, and journalists worldwide translate the entire speech into all languages. More than 1 billion people see the flowers from the Netherlands and hear the acknowledgment. This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Dutch team led by Paul Deckers. In 2018, the Pope even called for applause for the flowers!
In 1988 Paul Deckers went to Rome for the first time to participate in the decoration of the square and the Pope’s balcony for the Easter Mass. First as one of the flower arrangers in the team of Charles Van der Voort from Leiden.
In 2015, he succeeded Van der Voort as chief designer and project manager of the flower decorations of the Saint Peter Square. Every year since Paul Deckers uses a different flower as an ‘eye-catcher’ in the project. This year the Anthurium plays a major role in the flower decorations.
This project takes several months of preparation before getting to work in Vatican City at Easter. All natural products and material, except for the grass pieces, are brought from The Netherlands.
Flower bulbs are grown, stored in cold storages and put back into greenhouses a few days before the trip to Rome to ensure simultaneous blooming. In Rome itself there is little time, so these meticulous preparations are necessary. The #bloemenvoordepaus (flowers for the pope) convoy leaves for Rome the Tuesday before Easter. The Bishop of Rotterdam traditionally blesses the flowers for ‘safe voyage’.
The transport is quite large as about 30 tons of plants and vegetation has to be sent to Rome, for instance bulb flowers, many single flowers, shrubs and even tall trees.
Every year, 25 contributors depart for Rome. The flower arrangements are prepared on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Easter Saturday sees the decorations at Saint Peter Square itself.
Early in the morning on Easter Sunday is the time for finalizing and checks. After the mass, the flowers remain in location for a few days. Then the employees of the Vatican Gardens clean everything up and move the remaining plants into the gardens of the Vatican. Flower arrangements are sent to hospitals, nursing homes, and churches in the area.
Pope Francis is Paul Deckers third consecutive Pope. Paul has been part of the design and execution team for the flower arrangements in Rome since 1988.
In 2015, Paul became head designer / project manager of the Rome project. In that same year, Paul Deckers received the Papal award ‘Bene Merenti’ from Pope Francis for his effort and merit. Paul: ‘Each year it is a very honorable and beautiful assignment. But to receive a Papal award from Pope Francis I for my many years of dedication to the flower decorations in Rome and becoming head designer in the same year. A crowning glory!’