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Tailor Shows Off Next Pope's Vestments

The secret talks to name the next pope haven't even begun yet, but the papal tailoring shop already has his vestments on display in the front window.

The tiny, old-fashioned Ditta A. Gammarelli (search) shop in downtown Rome displayed three sets of white vestments — small, medium and large — to be shipped to the Vatican (search). A white silk "zucchetto," or skullcap, lay on a bed of red cloth behind a pane of glass, as did a pair of red leather shoes.

Inside the wood-paneled shop, tailors are working around the clock to finish the papal wardrobe, which is all handmade. Work must be finished by Monday, when cardinals will enter the Sistine Chapel to begin the secret ritual of choosing the man to succeed John Paul II (search).

Each outfit includes a white woolen cassock, a moire silk white cassock, a red silk "mozzetta," or waist-length robe, a moire silk sash, a skullcap and a pair of red leather shoes.

Keeping the fabrics light is a priority, said Filippo Gammarelli, one of three people running the family business.

"Today churches and apartments have heating, so vestments do not need to be heavy," he said. "They have to be light. The fabrics tend to be very light, as the clothes of John Paul II tended to be."

The chosen outfitter for the church elite, Gammarelli has served scores of cardinals and popes since 1798, including all but one of John Paul's predecessors in the past century. The exception — Pius XII — used his family tailor.

The store is nestled in the bustling streets around the Pantheon, across the Tiber River from the Vatican. Inside, photos of the last six pontiffs hang from the wall.

Last week, the shop paid a poignant tribute to John Paul, whom it served for 26 years. In the window, it displayed a single white silk skullcap that he never had the chance to wear. John Paul died April 2 at age 84.

"What I remember about John Paul II is his affability, his simplicity and his interest for the people," Gammarelli recalled. "That is what we all remember most about him."