The devout, the curious and the professional observers attend Pope Benedict's funeral

It was an occasion attended by a mixture of people, the devout, curious bystanders and professional observers all brought together by the death of a man who retired nearly a decade ago.

Monks, priests, nuns, cardinals, bishops - every stratum of the Catholic community was represented within St Peter's Square for Pope Benedict's funeral.

And then there were thousands of worshippers who came here to pay their own private respects.

Among them were nuns from Nigeria, who both described Benedict as "courageous" for his decision to retire at the age of 85, with one of them saying he should be considered a saint.

A missionary from the Philippines said she thought of the former Pope as "faithful and humble" - an example to everyone in the church.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales, was also present, with people patiently waiting around him to ask for his blessing.

"I knew Pope Benedict reasonably well so I do feel a real sadness and a sense of loss," he said, '"but I think that warmth was also a reflection of his personality.

"The thing that remains with people was that he was gentle - he was a gentleman - and he had great insight and sensitivity.

"Anybody who met him came away with that sense of a man who was warm and who was courteous, to whom you could relate, no matter the difficulties that were being tackled.

"That's what spread among people today - they were saying goodbye to someone who was just lovely."

No dissent despite critics in his life

Around him, there was no dissent. Pope Benedict had many critics in his life, notably those who said that he did not do enough to confront sexual abuse scandals within his church, but today was not a forum for those debates.

It was, at heart, the funeral of a venerable man, with most, if not quite all, the trappings of a full papal event.

And that's what brought the curious too, for this was a day of public spectacle and there were people who came simply to say they had been there, or to post a photo from among the throng.

Then there were the professionals - politicians, royals and representatives as well as police, medics, and support staff.

Alongside them were the Swiss guard, who protect the Vatican, journalists from dozens of countries and diligent street cleaners who cleaned up before and after the ceremony.

St Peter's Square was nowhere near full - but this was still special

The service had barely ended when the barriers were being taken down - the Vatican is very good at managing crowds.

This was not like the funeral of the previous Pope, John Paul II, whose death brought millions to Italy and created an outpouring of grief from around the world.

Benedict did not spend as long in the job, did not engender such love, and did not die in office. St Peter's Square, which can hold hundreds of thousands, was nowhere near full.

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But this was still a special occasion. There were moments when applause rang around the whole congregation, when the music seemed to seep through the mist; when the crowd of people held their breath as they watched Pope Francis kiss the coffin holding the body of his predecessor.

It was the day when normal order was restored in the Catholic Church - when the split affection ended and when the focus returned to the one person left in the world who has been proclaimed as Pope.

The question now, for the devout, the curious and the professional observers, is this: was Benedict's decision to retire a one-off curiosity or a precedent that Francis might follow?

On a day when the Vatican marked the past, there are many wondering about the future.