Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2013 > Daily Dispatch #72

March 13, 2013: Pope-urri

I used to be disgusted,
now I try to be amused,
since the wings of God have rusted,
all the angels want to wear my red shoes.
 Red Shoes, Elvis Costello

There’s now a new pope. I could not ride this morning because my knee hurt, and besides, it was windy. So I put ice on my knee and listened to NPR. Who would be the next pope? It was one of those what’s going to happen next stories. And it was enshrouded in papal secrecy.

I was half-listening, that is until I learned that a new pope would, after being elected, go into what was called The Room of Tears or Sala De Lacrima, and get ready to meet the people. He was to cry a bit, don popey vestments, and then slip into a pair of red shoes.

I was intrigued by this business of red shoes. My questions, and I had a good number of them, went unanswered – like, how many pairs of red shoes are there in this room? How long have they been there? What if there are none that fit the new pope? (I mean, there were over 100 cardinals vying for the job –does this mean that one size fits all?) Are they bowling shoes? And does the pope bowl?

Red loafers, manufactured by papal shoemaker Adriano Stefanelli, Novara - Worn by H.H. Pope Benedict XVI (Wikipedia)

This being pure trivia, I went to the definitive source for more information. I googled Pope Red Shoes, and of course found some answers on Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, the pope has outdoor wear -- red leather shoes and indoor wear – papal sandals or Episcopal sandals, the latter are the liturgical footwear worn by all Latin Rite bishops.

“Before 1969, the Pope, like all bishops and prelates, wore the Episcopal sandals during mass. Outdoor shoes were made of plain red Morocco leather and had a wide cross in gold braid. The cross once extended across the shoe and down to the sole. In the eighteenth century, the ends of the cross were shortened. This old-fashioned type of dress shoe is very thin-soled and is sometimes called 'pantofola liscia' or smooth slipper model.

"After 1958, Pope John XXIII added gold buckles to the outdoor papal shoes, making them similar to the red shoes worn by cardinals outside of Rome. Pope Paul VI eliminated the gold cross and discontinued the custom of kissing the papal foot. He also abolished buckles from all ecclesiastical shoes, which had been customarily required at the Papal Court and for prelates.

"He also discontinued the use of the indoor velvet papal slippers. Paul VI wore plain red leather shoes throughout the rest of his term.

"Pope John Paul, who was pope for just 33 days, continued wearing the plain red leather shoes worn by Paul VI. Early in his pontificate, Pope John Paul II wore red shoes; however, he quickly adopted ordinary brown shoes. Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II were buried in the red leather papal shoes.

"The most recent pope, Pope Benedict XVI wore red papal shoes, which were provided by his personal cobbler, Adriano Stefanellifrom Novara, who has several pictures and documents in his shoe-shop attesting the fact.

"In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI also restored the use of the white damask silk (Paschal mozzetta), which was previously worn with white silk slippers.

"The papal shoes, along with the camuro, papal mozzetta, and cloak (tabarro), are the only remnants of the former red color of the papal garments. Pope Pius V (1566 - 1572) (a Dominican), changed the papal color to white, and it has remained so since."

Apparently, the red shoes may date from early Roman times. The Kings of Rome, who were also the Pontifex Maximus (high priests), wore red boots. When Christianity became the state religion, the popes became the Pontifex Maximus, and adopted the red shoes.

It was as I was finishing up my red shoe quasi-research that it was announced (in latin) “We have a new pope.” I caught that his pope name is Francis. I for one think this is very cool. I don’t know how many St Francis’s there are out there, but I know that one of them had a soft spot in his heart for animals.

So maybe, just maybe, this new guy sees himself as being a kindred spirit. If this is so, he might very well believe that animals have souls. This then might bode well for animals and in particular those that aren’t getting the best of treatment.

I lastly went to the New York Times and took a look at Francis. Unlike the old pope (who was always very dour) the new pope looks like a very happy fellow. Maybe the problem was that the old pope’s red shoes didn’t fit, and the new pope’s shoes do. Gotta have proper fitting footwear if you’re going dog walking.

73. 3/14/13: Poached Salmon