A Brick from the Holy Door of St. Mary Major
In 2008 Father Kunst purchased a series of holy year bricks from a Roman citizen selling them on auction. They belonged to the man’s grandmother who had recently died at 104 years of age. The man’s grandfather worked at the Spanish embassy at the Vatican. On one of the bricks is written the notation that it was intended as a gift to his grandfather and his family.
The bricks are from all the major basilicas in Rome.
Please scroll down to reach Andre Bocelli’s Ave Maria.
Holy Year Bricks
The bricks used to seal the Holy Year Doors between Jubilees at the four major basilicas in Rome.
Great pomp and ceremony is connected to these bricks. In earlier times, the pope would literally take a hammer to smash through the bricks. Crowds gathered to watch this ceremony and to collect pieces of the bricks as souvenirs or relics of the Holy Year. This practice, however, became dangerous as people were killed attempting to grab the bricks.
Eventually that practice ended and the bricks are now removed in advance and distributed to people working at the Vatican.
Holy Year bricks are quite prized, ornate and large with symbols of the papacy on them.
The inscription on this brick reads:
SRE CARDINALIS VANNUTELLI
EP OSTIEN ET PRAENEST
PATR BAS LIBERIANAE ARCHIP
APERUIT ET CLAUSIT
AN JUBILAEI MCMXXV
Vincenzo Vannutelli (Genazzano 5 December 1836—
Roma 9 Iuglio 1930) was the Cardinale Legato who
opened and closed the holy door. Pope Leone XIII
elevated him to the rank of cardinal in the consistory
of 23 June 1890.
There are four major basilicas in Rome, each having a Holy Door. They are St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Walls. These doors are normally sealed shut from the inside and cannot be opened until the Holy Year. Holy Doors are sealed shut with Holy Year Bricks. Upon opening the door at the start of the Holy Year, great ceremony is attached to the removal of these bricks.
Pilgrims flock to Rome during these Jubilees that occur every twenty-five years.
In the Catholic tradition a holy year or Jubilee is a great religious event, a year of reconciliation and forgiveness. It dates to biblical times and was evident even in the Law of Moses where it was celebrated every fifty years.
Holy years are marked with much pomp and ceremony by the Vatican. There are specific Holy Doors at each of the four main basilicas, and they are marked by the Holy Year bricks which are ceremoniously removed before the pope can walk through the Holy Door to signify the start of the Holy Year.