9.18.2006

The Pope Wears Prada

... if the Devil is the anti-Christ, then should the Pope be the anti-Devil ?
Being called Dorothy, I avoided red shoes for years as I grew tired of the jokes. It was a terrible faux pas, as wearing them with jeans or white dresses in summer is a classic look. It generally works better on women, but if any man can get away with it, then it's the infallible pope.
Much fuss has been made of the red shoes worn by the Pope, with suggestions flying around that papal ruby slippers come from Prada. It's all nonsense of course. The second picture shows the shoes in close-up and although I can't read the label, it's clearly not Prada. I understand that the shoes in fact come from the Papal Outfitters.


The Pope has been snapped in some rather snazzy sunglasses, but the red shoes are nothing new.
Last week the Pope gave a speech in Germany which upset some Muslims. They were upset because they were told to be upset, and I very much doubt they either heard or read the speech. If they had, it would have been quite clear that the Pope was not expressing his own anti-Muslim views, but rather quoting from a historical document.

His love of history is also expressed through his clothing, most notably in his red slippers. These are a revival of traditional papal dress. Although not what we associate with sandals, the early shoes are termed Episcopal Sandals (often also referred to as Slippers). The present Pope's feet are clearly clad in unembroidered leather, and so are Episcopal Shoes.

Episcopal Shoes were the only kind of footwear on which a cross was permitted - it was the pope's perogative and forbidden to all other Christians. The shoes were worn with special silk stockings called caligae, worn over ordinary stockings - these could only be worn by bishops after the eight century.

At first the various types of Episcopal shoes and stockings were simply symbols of status, modeled on those worn by Senators and the Late Antique rich. I thought that red boots were worn in Triumphs, but cannot find the source, so may be wrong on that one. Red boots were certainly worn by later Emperors and the early Kings - Caesar donning red boots was interpreted as a sign that he wanted to make himself king, along with his image on coins, and this in turn led to his assassination.

Paul VI joined the 20th century, and switched over to the type of leather outdoor shoes worn by the present pope.

John Paul II decided that his Polish-made shoes were better suited, and discontinued the practice of red shoes; he was however buried in red papal shoes.

Benedict XVI has revived the practice.

The shoes in the last photo are outdoor Episcopal Shoes from 1808 that belonged to Pius VII.

Until Pius V popes wore red; after his death they have tended to favour white, except in their shoes.

A few other details of papal dress are worth mentioning. Their Ring of the Fisherman is designed to recall St. Peter's earlier career as a fisherman. The pallium cloak - first used just by popes, then also by cardinals - of course derives from derives from the Roman garment.

The pileolus (popularly called "zucchetto") is the name given to the little skull cap that the pope, Catholic and Anglican clergy wear. John Paul II was innovative in this area of dress too: when given a new cap, he gave the giver the one he was wearing. Early clerics were tonsured, so this served the practical purpose of covering the shaved part of their head and keeping them warm. Although it looks like a yarmulke, and would seem to be a hangover from Christianity's roots in Judaism, this is not correct. The pileolus is first recorded in the Medieval period, when there were several variations, including one that covered the ears to keep them warm too. The first depiction of the pileolus is in the church of St. Francis at Assissi, in the painting of "St. Francis before Honorius III" (1290).

(Photos from: AP top two; Wikipedia bottom).