Christenings are always a cause for celebration and it was certainly a case of double the excitement when twins Emilia and Isabella were welcomed into the faith during an Italian christening at St. Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell London. Adding to the “doubling”, the girls had both a Roman Catholic and a Greek Orthodox ceremony, reflecting their parents’ different Christian denominations.
It was a glorious late summer Saturday but even if the skies had been cloudy it wouldn’t have mattered within St Peter’s magnificent interior. Built after a request from Saint Vincent Pallotti and inspired by the Basilica of San Crisogono in Rome, the church dates from 1863 and is the oldest Catholic Church used by London’s Italian community. The TARDIS like building often takes first-time visitors by surprise with its soaring ceiling and incredibly decorative paintings. From a photographer’s perspective it is a joy to work in due to the natural light and immense beauty, making baptism photography a pleasure.
Some Catholic christenings take place during a parish mass however Emilia and Isabella received the sacrament from Padre Andrea Fulco in a separate service attended by family and close friends. As their mother Katerina is Greek Orthodox, and father Stephen is Roman Catholic, the girls had three Godparents each, with Alexandro, Pavlos, and Georgina standing up for Isabella, and Primo, Andrew, and Jennifer vowing to help raise Emilia in the traditions of both churches.
One of the highlights of the Catholic christening ceremony is the lighting of the Baptismal candle. Lit by their proud father, Stephen, from the church’s Easter candle, the flame represents Christ’s light in the twins’ lives. It was a beautiful and uplifting moment.
After the service parents, Godparents, and guests gathered for a group photo on the steps of the church before making their way to St Sophia’s Cathedral in Bayswater for the Greek Orthodox ceremony. I always feel lucky doing my job, but having the opportunity to work in not one of London’s most beautiful churches, but two in one day, was definitely an opportunity I was grateful to receive. As with the Roman Catholic service, the Greek Orthodox christening was sincere and moving. The families may worship in different churches but it is clear their faith is strong, and they were united in their determination Emilia and Anabella should have the best start in life.
It was after 3pm by the time the second Baptism was completed, and the guests were eager to move on to the reception at Ciao Bella. The girls had woken up by this time and I was able to get some candid shots with Stephen, as well as some serene “Madonna and child” type photos with Katerina. Despite a long day with a lot of formality and attention, the girls were angels to photograph, and clearly loved having so many family and friends to cuddle them.
Though receiving the sacrament of christening is a significant event, working with babies means ceremonies usually have their lighter moments as well. I am grateful to both priests for their warm welcome, as well as to the family, for allowing me to participate in Isabella’s and Emilia’s big day. Congratulations.