“Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes”

by Sally Steele

Pope Benedict XVI has been described as a trendy “style icon” who partakes in

designer fashion.



Pope-watchers note his intricate, gilded, fur, satin & velvet Papal chapeau, and on other days, his Serengeti sunglasses or white baseball caps.  The Pope also sports red slip-on footwear, widely assumed to be made by Prada. However L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, previously denied reports that the shoes were a Prada product, saying this was, “of course false.”


Word is that the Pope’s shoes are made by a cobbler from Novara, Adriano Stefanelli, who makes them from calf or kid for the winter and nappa leather for the summer. Papal shoe repairs are at the hand of Antonio Arellano, a Peruvian shoemaker in the Borgo (rion of Rome), the medieval quarter next to St Peter’s. After his election the Vatican denied reports that Pope Benedict was abandoning the Rome ecclesiastical tailors Gammarelli, who have been making papal cassocks since 1792, for a rival firm, Maninelli, which supplied his robes when he was a cardinal. “There are no cassock wars, a spokesman said.”


Vatican tailoring, AP photo








“Gammarelli’s cassocks are sewn beyond all the rules of tailoring art. The Pope was visibly not comfortable in them. So he came back to us and is breaking with tradition,” Mancinelli explained in the newspaper Die Aktuelle. For 45 years, he has had his small shop directly across the Vatican. Maria Ratzinger who came with her brother to Rome as his housekeeper, “discovered” Mancinelli’s shop.

“That is malicious gossip and plain envy,” says Gammarelli in the same paper. “We work with absolute accuracy and with the best seamstresses. I am not going to let Raniero Mancinelli get me out of the way.” Gammarelli’s family enterprise, located behind the Pantheon, has provided Popes with their garments since 1792. The Pope has been Mancinelli’s faithful customer for over 20 years. While he was cardinal, he would purchase three of each item of clothing that he ordered, 2 in his standard size and a 3rd one, half a size larger, perhaps for holiday feasts and festivities.

Gammarelli, prepared the garments for predecessor Popes, and for Benedict XVI before the Conclave. The array of garments was in all sizes, to accommodate whomever got the official nod. Benedict, as with others, donned a Gammarelli cassocks for his first appearance as Pope, and that proved to be the final cassock fitting & wearing. Mancinelli had been busy preparing cassocks, ritual garments, coats, socks, and other special items.


A red papal cap





When not celebrating religious services, the Pope wears a cassock. Each cassock takes the seamstresses a minimum of 20 hours to finish. Over his cassock the Pope wears a lace rochet. On top of the rochet is a red Papal mozzetta, a shoulder cape that has a collar and is buttoned all the way down the front. The Pope wears a pectoral cross suspended on a gold cord over the mozzetta. He may also choose to wear a red stole with gold embroidery over the mozzetta, even when he is not officiating at a service. Since the 13th Century many Papal portraits have shown the pontiff wearing the camauro, a red velvet cap which covers the ears, and is trimmed with ermine.

The Papal shoes are traditionally red, Pope John Paul II would sometimes wear black or brown leather shoes. Pope Benedict XVI has restored the glory of the traditional red Papal slippers indoors, and leather shoes outdoors. Good thing, clicking heels of other colors does not have the same cachet. In the 17th century, Louis XIV wore red heels on his shoes to represent his godly right as king. He was widely copied. Dorothy’s red slippers in The Wizard of Oz were originally silver, and changed to red with the invention of Technicolor. Recently, Christian Louboutin, the maker of excruciatingly fashionable shoes, which all have a cherry red sole, sued Yves Saint Laurent for putting red soles on their shoes. In August 2011, Louboutin filed a trademark infringement lawsuit, alleging that YSL has breached its copyright by using the red sole. Judge Victor Marrero ruled that as color was cardinal in the world of fashion, “the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection.”

All cassocks are not equal.


Polish Catholic priests warm up on February 12, 2011 ahead of the 14th Alpine Ski Championships for clergymen in Wisla, southern Poland. AFP PHOTO / Pawel Ulatowski/AFP/Getty Images)


Polish priests vie for the “Papal Cup” prize in the annual clergy ski championships dubbed the John Paul II Cup after the ski-enthusiast Pope. Tradition takes over as flying cassock garbed priests hit the slopes at Poland’s southern Beskid Slaski mountain range, on the edge of the Czech Republic. “Each year, this is how we kick-off the competition for the John Paul II cup,” explained Father Damian, one of the organizers of the recent event that first started 14 years ago.

Danish priests are calling for a range of ‘off-the-peg’ cassocks after it was revealed that the tailor-made robes costs as much as fur coats EUR 64,000. A tailor-made cassock takes up to eight weeks to produce and every priest is entitled to freshen up their wardrobe every eight years. Bishops are now suggesting that a ready-made range of cassocks in different set sizes could help cut costs dramatically, allowing the church to use funds to otherwise employ more clergy. “For example, I don’t understand that we don’t standardize the cloth of office instead of having it tailor-made. This isn’t a parade uniform that has to look terribly impressive,” Haderslev Diocese Bishop, Niels Henrik Arendt, told Kristeligt Dagblad.

Even Victor Hugo commented on the state of priestly garb in Les Miserables, Chapter V., “Monseigneur Bienvenu made his cassocks last too long.”


Room of the Fire in the Borgo, Raphael


In the 16th century during The Sack of Rome, Pope Clement VII Medici changed sides so many times in the wars between King François I of France and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V that the latter finally unleashed his troops against the Pope. “Hapless Clement hitched up his cassock and dashed the length of this overhead ‘Corridor of Alexander VI’ to the safety of Castel St. Angelo. Under siege, however, he surrendered and crowned Charles Emperor three years later.”

Back to Benedict XVI, style characterizes this Pope in other interesting manifestations.

The Vatican states, “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, elected Pope and taking the name Benedict XVI, has chosen a coat of arms rich in symbolism and meaning that transmits to history his personality and Pontificate.”

Others have commented, “Benedict XVI is bound and determined to outdo his predecessor in Modernism. The latest indication is that his coat of arms violates significant traditional principles of past papal coat of arms. The pope’s coat of arms is important because this is the way the popes have traditionally told the world what they are about, not so much in words, but in symbols. First of all, notice the modernistic tone to its style. It is reminiscent of a commercial logo, not the rich heraldic tradition of the papacy. But the most significant statement of the new arms is obvious. What is it missing when you compare it to its predecessor’s? Why, the papal tiara, of course, replaced by a mere bishop’s mitre! He has even removed its symbolism from his coat of arms.”


Red shoes rule!: these by Louboutin



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