Lightning Strikes St. Peter’s Basilica the Day Pope Benedict XVI Resigns

Is it a sign from God or a massively impressive display of the force of nature?

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Lightning strikes the Dome of St Peter's at the Vatican on Feb. 11, 2013.

Is it a sign from God or a massively impressive display of the force of nature?

While that answer may depend on your own theology, there’s no doubt that Agence France Presse photographer ‘s Filippo Monteforte picture of lightning set against St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 11 – the same day Pope Benedict XVI resigned – is spectacular in its own right. Monteforte had his camera trained on the building in Vatican City when the clouds seemed to part as a single bolt of lightning happened to strike the holy structure.

(MORE: The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI: Is It Health? Or Politics? Or Both?)

According to Monteforte himself, the fortuitous picture was the result of a lot of guesswork and included a severe display of patience as he waited for more than two hours for an opportune shot:

I took the picture from St. Peter’s Square while sheltered by the columns. It was icy cold and the rain was falling in sheets. When the storm started, I thought that lightning might strike the rod, so I decided it was worth seeing whether – if it DID strike – I could get the shot at exactly the right moment… The first bolt was huge and lit up the sky, but unfortunately I missed it. I had better luck the second time, and was able to snap a couple of images of the dome illuminated by the bolt.

(MORE: Pope Benedict XVI To Resign, Citing ‘Advanced Age’)

Pope Benedict XVI is the first pope to abdicate the papacy since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, citing decreased physical and emotional faculties due to his ailing age.