The baptism of Jesus is described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, while John’s gospel does not directly describe the event.
Along with his crucifixion, most biblical scholars view Jesus’ baptism as one of the two historically certain facts about him, and often use it as the starting point for the study of the historical Jesus.
Originally, the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which falls on January 6 each year and commemorates the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana.
Over time, the celebration of this biblical event came to be acknowledged as a distinct feast day from Epiphany in many Western cultures.
Pope Paul VI, who was pontiff from 1963 to 1978, officially set its date as the first Sunday after January 6 (as early as January 9 or as late as January 13).
Pope John Paul II (1978 to 2005) then initiated a custom whereby on this feast day the pontiff baptises babies in the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican.
This tradition is still honoured to this day.
Last year, Pope Francis marked the Baptism of the Lord by baptising 34 babies – 16 boys and 18 girls – in the Sistine Chapel following a special Mass.
This year, the Sistine Chapel will once again host the annual ritual in honour of the baptism of Christ.