A Christmas tree for the pope

This year, the Christmas tree which decorates St. Peter's square in Rome comes from Bavaria. A Munich based Allianz agency insured the 1.200 kilometer long journey.


The stately spruce tree from the Bavarian-Czech border region is 25 meters high and up to 11 meters wide. Come Christmas Day, the gazes of over one billion people will be turned its way, making it a Christmas tree in the truest sense of the word. None other than Pope Francis will welcome the tree in the Vatican. The employees and agents of the Munich-based Allianz agency of Alexander Ascherl will beam with pride, when the tree arrives safe and sound in Rome, delivered by Ascherl’s customer Raedlinger.

The tradition to erect a Christmas tree on St. Peter's square in Rome goes back to 1982. Pope John Paul II initiated this tradition. Each year, a different country has the honor of providing the tree. The small Bavarian village of Waldmuenchen has already had the honour once before in 1984. A local committee has organized an entire "Christmas tree for Rome" fest.

A Blessing for the journey

The most complex planning was needed to organize the gigantic tree's transportation. After it was felled in the forest, the six-ton spruce was transported to Waldmuenchen by helicopter belonging to the German Armed Forces. From there the journey went on by truck, which belongs to Ascher’s corporate customer, the transport company Raedlinger.

The first stop was in Regensburg, where Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer conferred his blessing for the 1200 kilometer long journey to the Vatican. Another stopover was made at Munich's Odeon square, where a Bavarian politican gave secular commendations for a safe passage. "We do not deal with such extraordinary cases every day," explains Wittmann, a customer service employee at Ascherl Allianz agency. They wrote the policy through esa cargo & logistics, a German Allianz subsidiary specialized on transport insurance.

The Christmastree is being erected on St. Peter’s square in Rome.
The Christmastree is being erected on St. Peter’s square in Rome.

The journey lasted four days and nights, traveling at a top speed of 60 km/h. And the cargo was extremely sensitive and expensive. A Christmas spruce goes for 20 Euro per meter. The cost of this giant spruce would thus cost way beyond 500 Euro. Excluding any transport fees. "In order to cross four countries with a colossal tree, Raedlinger had to obtain endless amounts of permits,” recalls Juergen Wittmann. “And lots of mishaps could have happened during the stopovers in Regensburg and Munich. We certainly did not want the Pope to receive a spruce with broken branches."

Toys made from the wood of Christmas trees

The noble spruce will be officially handed over to Pope Francis. The Christmas tree suppliers can hardly wait for their private audience. The people from Waldmuenchen spent the last months crafting oversized straw stars to decorate the tree. 60 smaller trees were also sent sent from the Czech forest for the Vatican buildings. Since everything went smoothly while bringing the tree to Rome, Wittmann adds with a smile: "Maybe we should insist on a blessing before concluding insurance policies more often." The giant papal spruce will also have a life after it has lost its needles and decorations. Traditionally, children's toys are made from the Christmas tree’s wood after the festive season.

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Susanne Seemann
Allianz SE
Phone +49.89.3800-18170
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