November 1st is the Festa di Ognissanti (Feast of All Saints), which in Italy is a public holiday. The feast, which used to be known in England as All-Hallows, or Hallowmas (Old English: haleou: saint), commemorates all the martyrs, known and unknown, who in heaven enjoy the beatific vision of God.
In the west the Feast of All Saints was originally celebrated on May 13th, the day in 609 that Pope Boniface IV (r. 608-615) dedicated the Pantheon to the 'Blessed Mary, ever virgin, mother of all saints'. The ancient Roman temple duly became the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres, also known as Santa Maria Rotonda.
Pope Boniface IV had received the temple as a gift from the Byzantine Emperor Phocas (r. 602-610).
By the end of the eighth century, November 1st had replaced May 13th as the date for the feast.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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