Home' Travel News : April 2013 Contents 52 travel news April 2013
April 2013 travel news 53
Jane Barsby is a well-known and
respected travel writer who lives, works
and plays in Nairobi.
Yes, the papal earth tremors have been
coming thick and fast, but brace yourself
because far greater chasms yawn. The
news that the new pope, Pope Francis I,
takes the bus, lives in a fat, cooks his own
meals, makes jokes, has only one lung and
a chemistry degree is old hat. And, while
waves still radiate from his views on gay
marriage and unmarried mothers, they're
but the ripples of a pebble hurled into a pond
in comparison to the really hot question of
the day: which is, will Pope Francis 'habeum'
style? And will he outshine Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI in the fashion icon stakes?
This would seem unlikely. Because B16, with
his billowing baroque capes, his priceless
spiritual bling, and his quite miraculous hat
collection will be an exceptionally hard act to
follow. In 2007 he was voted 'Accessoriser
of the Year' by Esquire Magazine, which
lauded his decision to team red loafers with
gold lace and described it as 'a signature
look for the papacy.' Later the same red
loafers caused intense controversy when
it was declared that Prada had designed
them, though this was fnally disproved in
an announcement by Christiane Amanpour
who appeared on CNN to declare that they
were actually the creation of the cobbler of
St Peter's, Antonio Arellano.
The loafers were small fry, however, in
comparison with the schism that erupted
when the former Pope appeared in a red
velvet Camauro 'Santa' hat edged in ermine,
which the Vatican claimed had lain discarded
in the papal closet since the medieval age.
'I wore it only once,' said the Pope, 'I was
just cold, and I happen to have a sensitive
head; so I said, since the Camauro is there,
let's put it on.' Well, quite, but if you're the
Pope you can't just pull on any old thing and
expect to get away with it, as evidenced by
the fact that in pulling on the Camauro, Pope
Benedict was accused of fying in the face
of the 1965 Vatican II ruling, which sought
to bring the papacy 'back to the people',
and specifcally outlawed the wearing of
theatrical robes and over-the-top headgear.
But then Benedict had a passion for hats.
He horrifed the Curia when he appeared
strolling in the gardens of the Castel Gandolfo
wearing a white papal baseball cap, and he
delighted the faithful when he resurrected
the Italian Bersaglieri hat, which was a
large, wide-brimmed Mexican sombrero
presented in vermilion satin. Then there was
the Saturno, a hat that replicated the rings
of the planet Saturn. And then there was
his mitre, which he made a point of wearing
taller and more pretiosa (jewelled) than any
of his predecessors had ever dared.
And even hats apart, B16 was rarely seen
without his short red velvet mozzetta cape,
which was always trimmed with ermine; and
this despite the fact that, technically, ermine
should only have been seen on the papal
shoulders in winter. He also overturned
centuries of tradition by decreeing that the
cut of his papal pallium shawl should be
changed from traditional symmetrical to racy
But that was Benedict, the so-called
Pope of Bling.
So, what can we expect of Francis, 'the
Pope from the End of the World'? Well,
if early indications are anything to go by,
some radical rocking of the papal boat.
Vatican vestment watchers were riveted, for
instance, when he appeared on the balcony
of St Peter's wearing a simple white cassock,
a white cap and white satin sash (without
the traditional mozzetta cape), and wearing
nothing but a simple iron pectoral cross rather
than the gold cross of his predecessors. No
wonder then, that Roman rumour is rife as
to whether Francis will wear gold buckles on
his red shoes (last seen in 1960), or brown
lace-up shoes (last seen on Pope John Paul
II). And whether his mitre will be white linen,
silk, or auriphrygiata (fringed or tasselled);
and whether he will wear his mozzetta mini,
midi, maxi... Or not at all?
When considering all these points, it may be
useful to remember that the new pope chose
to be called after St Francis of Assisi, who
caused several fashion furors of his own in
the twelfth century. The son of a wealthy
Italian silk merchant before he became a
monk, St Francis was renowned for his love
of silk, velvet, bright colours and gorgeous
shoes. But he gave all of them away in favour
of a rough wool cassock in what he referred
to as 'beast colour', which was tied at the
waist with a knotted rope.
There's also the fact that St Francis preferred
to do without shoes and go barefoot.
Could this be Arreviderci to the red loafers?
'An example I often use to illustrate the reality
of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it's
beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if
you look at it from behind, you discover the
truth... whoever gives in to such self-absorbed
vanity has huge misery hiding inside them."
- Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
elected Pope Francis 1st, the 266th
Pope of the Catholic Church
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