The vigil began early on Saturday morning, with television cameras trained on the road that leads to Bracciano's Odescalchi Castle, paparazzi hanging out of the windows looking down on it and local Tom Cruise fans crammed against the crush barriers, settling in for a long wait.
Towards midday, limousines bearing Roberta Armani, niece of the fashion designer, and the tenor Andrea Bocelli, began arriving. Other guests included Brooke Shields, Richard Gere, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Antony. At about 1.55 pm, as a cloudburst sent the crowd diving for cover, Katie Holmes came up the drive in a limousine with her baby daughter, Suri. Cruise, deposited by helicopter nearby, joined her shortly after 4pm, arriving at the castle in a van and waving to the crowd.
Bracciano revelled in its day in the limelight. Everybody in this gorgeous lakeside town, it seemed, had something to sell. The 16-year-old girl who stood in a corner of the castle piazza all day holding up a banner that read "Tom and Katie Welcome Home" was a hopeful singer, with a CD to give away. Hovering near was Giuseppe Siragusa, a local man in a flowery hat who called himself a menestrello del mondo, a "minstrel of the world". He wore an apron announcing "Contemporary Poetry Declaimed at Your Request."
An Italian Jehovah's Witness prowled around, sniffing out converts. Every second shop on Via Umberto I, the main street, was in on the TomKat act. "Wishing you love and happiness" gushed the Caffe del Corso in white piping on the window, backing it up with buckets of white roses.
Was it a real wedding? The Roman Catholic church didn't think so. No civil licence had been applied for, so it wasn't a civil marriage either. But amid the euphoria, nobody really cared. Negative voices had shut up: the office of the neo-fascist Fiamme Tricolore party, a step away from the castle, had a large sign up earlier in the week declaring, "Yesterday Today Tomorrow Anti-American". By yesterday the sign had disappeared, and the office was padlocked. Graffiti on a wall near the castle, Morte ai satanisti, "Death to the Satanists", was the only discordant note.
What was going on in the castle? It was anybody's guess. It could have been Scientology's "traditional" wedding service, couched in cod Medieval English, full of phrases such as "Rejoice! You line of struggling life/ From eons gone to now/for here again/your track is sped/And winged into/A future fate..."
In this version the person officiating, David Miscavige, 45, successor to founder L Ron Hubbard as head of the Church of Scientology, would declare himself confident that "the girl" would "fare full well and staunchly as a wife" and require "the man" to give her "food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat".
Alternatively it might be the "double ring" ceremony, which refers to the core Scientology belief in a sustaining triangle of "affinity, reality and communication". "Make a pact between you that you will never go to sleep on a broken triangle," the official intones.
The wedding services are silent on the core Scientology beliefs, including the one that says an evil galactic warlord called Xenu rounded up 13.5 trillion beings 75 million years ago, flew them to Earth and vaporised them with hydrogen bombs.
The higher wisdom of Scientology is not meant to be cast before "wogs" (as non-Scientologists are known to believers) but is reserved for the highest of the "Operating Thetans" such as Cruise - whose ranks Katie Holmes will no doubt soon join.
THE SCRIPT: Let us give you a flavour ...
Excerpts from a Church of Scientology wedding:
Minister to bride: "So now my [bride's name], stand steady here and say do you today intend for him beside you there to be to him a wife? And do you ken that [groom's name] here shall have you for his own? Do you? And do you understand as well that by the customs of our race you pledge to him and only him your kiss and your caress? Do you?"
Minister to groom: "Now, [groom's name], girls need clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat. All caprice if you will, but still they need them. Do you then provide? Do you? ... And when she's older do you then keep her still? Do you?"Reuse content