The Exhibition    Accommodating and Looking After Pilgrims

Once in Rome, pilgrims could choose among several different types of accommodation, depending upon their rank and status, funds and provenance, as well as whether they belonged to a congregation associated with a Roman confraternity. Generally speaking, Rome has always prepared for an upcoming Holy Year through a series of public, private or charitable activities and initiatives designed to ensure that there is sufficient accommodation in town, viable services and enough food to cater to the expected wave of pilgrims. Catering to these needs by taking appropriate steps was not an easy task. Indeed, it was not always possible for the Papal administration to fully achieve what it set out to through its offices, local authorities, courts, permanent congregations or congregations set up specifically for a Jubilee, or through other governance facilities that came and went over the years. Private enterprise, whether charitable or for-profit, combined with the network of corporations and welfare associations and formed a vital and essential part of holy-year hospitality in Rome.

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Religious confraternities supported jubilee pilgrimages since the very first Holy Years, even though they started operating on regular bases from the 16th century: their logistic help was of great importance and had a central role. The Confraternity of the Holy Trinity of Pilgrims and Convalescents was founded in 1548 by Saint Philippe Neri, and it managed the material hospitality with very strict rules. A timely programming of arrivals was fundamental to supply kitchen and refectories, with food and other items, set the bedrooms and – if needed – rent more rooms. The peak events related to the hospitality pattern were represented by the foot washing ritual and the offering of the evening meal, cadenced by the recital of prayers and visits in procession to the basilicas. To cope with overcrowding, confraternities would usually provide hospitality for only three nights. Such a brief stay would be long enough thanks to a “Privilege for shortening Basilica visits” and special indults that pontiffs granted to confraternities. Foreigners could also count on several national foundations associated with the various states of different parts of Europe or the Italian peninsula. While in Rome, sick pilgrims could get assistance at major public hospitals, like the “Santo Spirito in Saxia Hospital”; better-off pilgrims could pay to be treated privately at the home, inn or hotel where they were staying.

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Shortly before the Holy Years, the papal administration used to adopt several rules in order to be ready to host huge numbers of visitors in Rome. Despite a conspicuous import of food and specific laws to forbid that food might be sold elsewhere, the food supply kept being the hardest problem, and there were times in which getting a meal was not an easy task. Similarly, Roman authorities had to work hard to maintain the regular delivery of wood from the nearby forests. A shortage of goods or private interests might cause a strong oscillation of the prices of goods and services. The authorities sought to combat this through edicts and notifications addressed to innkeepers , hoteliers, or private citizens. Strict laws were also introduced to protect public security and health.
In addition to regulations issued by civil authorities, also judicial authorities would issue a large number of edicts and notifications, in particular the Vicariate of Rome and its Court, essentially concerning “public morality”, conduct in public (and sometimes private) places, forms of socialization, clothing, discipline, the habits of the clergy, the conduction of processions and how to maintain churches and places of worship.

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