Bolt from the blue after pope resigns

Lightning strikes St Peter's dome at the Vatican on February 11, 2013.

Hours after Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world by announcing he would resign at the end of the month, a blinding shaft of lightning shot down from the heavens and struck the rod atop the white cross on St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.  Imagine the odds.  But here’s where it gets even more Twilight Zone: At that precise moment, AFP photographer Filippo Monteforte – his camera already trained on the Basilica’s cupola – pushed the button that yielded the image above.  A miracle?  Not quite.

“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.” Armed with a 50mm lens, Filippo waited. And waited. More than two hours. And then it happened. Twice. “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.”  

A video shot by BBC shows just how narrow Filippo’s window of opportunity was.