The sound of Bavarian drumming fills the air ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's funeral

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, on April 19, 2005, soon after his election.
Pope Benedict had asked for a sombre, simple funeral. Credit: AP

Before sun was up - the air around St Peter’s filled with the sound of Bavarian drumming.

Hundreds had travelled from Pope Benedict XVI's home state in Germany - resplendent in traditional dress, marching through the mist towards the square, for a funeral to go down in history.

As the light broke the Square began to fill up.

The faithful winding through the streets - small groups of nuns, priests in black - a bishop emerging through the dark with vestments skimming the cobbles.

The air around St Peter’s filled with the sound of Bavarian drumming. Credit: AP

The great arms of Bernini’s colonnade which extend either side of the Basilica drawing them all in.

Pope Benedict had asked for a sombre, simple funeral.

Usually on the death of a Pope, Vatican officials have a large document to draw on. But for a Pope who retired, this is largely uncharted territory.

It will be a moment in modern Church history to see his successor Francis preside.

The Funeral will follow the shape of a Requiem Mass which will feel familiar to most Catholics.

Many of the prayers will be said in the Latin so beloved of the late former Pope. The opening prayer includes the line ‘Having served as the Vicar of your Son on Earth, may he be welcomed by him into eternal glory’.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend - but nothing on the scale witnessed for St John Paul II.

Only two official delegations are coming - from Italy and Germany, as well as number of Catholic royal families. 

People look at the body of late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI laid out in state inside St. Peter's Basilica. Credit: AP

The British Government is represented by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

At the end, the late former Pope -  carried in a coffin of three layers will be laid to rest in the crypt of this great Basilica, where 148 popes are buried. Inside his casket, a scroll with a record of papacy.

For Pope Francis, it will truly the moment when he stands alone as the only Pope at the centre of the Church.

For the over billion Catholics around the world, many of whom will watch this morning, it is the conclusion of a long farewell, and a moment to contemplate where the Church goes next.

 Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.