Holy Thursday at Home: a Virtual Seven Churches Visitation

Holy Thursday at Home: a Virtual Seven Churches Visitation

The triduum is upon us! Let's talk Holy Thursday. No, wait, for a Holy Thursday overview, see this post

The “You Can Still Do This” Guide to All Things Holy Week

Here, let's talk about the Seven Churches Visitation.

Under normal circumstances, following the Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle in the church, which is left open and empty. The Sacrament, in a temporary tabernacle or pyx, is placed on an Altar of Repose in a different location in the church or an adjacent chapel or other room for Adoration. It is traditional to recite the Tantum Ergo before the Altar of Repose.

From this practice arose the tradition to visit several churches to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in each church. It actually began with St. Philip Neri, who would organize his sixteenth century buddies on a walking tour of Rome to visit the city’s seven basilicas on the night of Holy Thursday!

There is a plenary indulgence available to the faithful for the recitation of the Tantum Ergo on Holy Thursday, before the altar of repose (Manual of Indulgences 7:2). Recently, an apostolic letter allows us to gain indulgences without fulfilling the usual conditions of confession and communion if we are prevented by the Coronavirus from doing so, provided we resolve to do so when possible. So this indulgence is available to us from home today, even if we don't have access to Mass and confession.

Our Holy Thursday tradition has been (since our first try in 2013!) to do a modified Seven Churches Visitation during the day. Buuuuut . . . since all the churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are currently locked up tight under the COVID19 Coronavirus directives, what we usually do is not going to be possible this year.

Perhaps we'll still get in the car and drive to seven churches, and stay outside. I think it would still be meaningful. But it also occurred to me that this might be a very good use for some of the virtual tours available for the world's greatest Catholic churches. There are WAY more than seven available online, so if there's one you've always wanted to see, hey, now's your chance. But here are my suggestions.

1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, NY

You can move the image around, and zoom in right here.

2. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Notre Dame, IN

See more 360 images here.

3. Basilica of St. Mary – Minneapolis, MN

Same as above for this 360 degree image.

4. Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres – Chartres, France

Click here to go to the virtual tour.

5. La Sagrada Familia – Barcelona

6. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington D.C.

7. The Sistine Chapel – Vatican City

Click here to go to the virtual tour.

Poignant isn't it? Seeing all these beautiful sanctuaries empty, just as they probably are as you read this . . . but just as we trust that after the triduum comes the resurrection, we have to trust that after the quarantine will come full, bustling churches once again!

Have a beautiful Triduum and a very blessed Easter.


If you have a recommendation for a virtual tour of a Catholic Church that I didn't include, please put it in the comments!