.- Standing alongside the larger-than-life Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square this year is the tallest Christmas tree ever to grace the Vatican display.
At 33 meters (109 feet) high and three meters wide in circumference, it is the largest Christmas tree placed in the Vatican’s central square since Pope John Paul began the tradition in 1982.
The fir tree from the mountains of Sila National Park in Calabria, southern Italy, arrived at the Vatican early Dec. 13, about one week after its expected arrival. Thick fog encountered on the way was the last of a series of delivery problems.
The tree, which comes from a different region in Italy or European country every year, was a gift from the Calabrian regional government this year.
Transporting the Calabrian nine-ton fir had its challenges. First, workers had problems cutting down the tree because of heavy winds. The tree then had to be carried down the steep mountain valley with a powerful Forest Rangers helicopter, before being loaded onto a long haul truck and carried by road to Rome.
The tree took up most of the width of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway, where it was escorted by the forestry commission, the civil protection unit, and motorway staff, reported AKI. What is usually an eight-hour car ride to Rome took 53 hours.
The tree will be decorated in the coming days, and lit on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.
The massive tree in the square is not the only gift from Calabria. Another 29 pines of varying dimensions have been placed around the Vatican, including one in the Pope’s private apartment.