Monday, 11 March 2013

Red Shoes

Like many others, I shall be interested to learn who the wearer of the red shoes will be. At the outset I must declare that I am not a catholic but find the whole historical business of what is happening in Rome to be rather intriguing.
Pope John Paul ll wore red shoes at first but quickly adopted wearing ordinary brown shoes, however, he was buried in the red leather papal shoes. Pope Benedict XVl restored the use of the red leather papal shoes which he wore all of the time. They were made for him by his personal cobbler, Antonio Arellano. Following his resignation he is no longer allowed to wear them but will have to revert back to wearing brown shoes.
The cardinals will be locked away deliberating and praying to select the new pope, but do we really know what goes on, and do you know where the conclave is held?
You may not be interested in who these elderly men select, but the sight of them colourfully kitted out in black gowns with red cummerbunds and red hats, accompanied by choirs singing Veni, Creator Spiritus as they process into the Sistine Chapel does focus the eye. Yes, the Sistine Chapel is where they will remain until the decision is reached.
As the 115 members of the electoral college gather to cast their votes beneath Michelangelo's Last Judgment, the doors will close behind them on 12th March with a cry of "Extra onmes" - everyone out. They will be locked in - literally conclave "with key", the wooden blocks will be put in place so there is no escaping. No electronic devices are allowed in the chapel, it is checked for bugs beforehand and all participants have to undergo security checks. They must swear an oath which invites damnation if they breathe a single detail of what takes place.
To the outside world this is all very peculiar in an age when television, the internet and freedom of information legislation mean that there are hardly any private moments left. However, under the gaze of the media in the centre of a European city, the conclave still manages to go about it business in secrecy.
A handful of non cardinals are invited into the chapel, two sacristans, two masters of ceremonies and some nuns to do the plain but wholesome cooking served in the Sala Borgia. While the chapel may make a wonderful backdrop it lacks adjoining secure overnight accommodation. However, Pope John Paul ll had sleeping quarters built - Domus sactae Marthae - an ecclesiastical travelodge, which will be much more comfortable than the previous put-u-up-beds especially as many of the elderly cardinals have arthritic limbs.
Pope John Paul ll was the first non Italian cardinal to be elected for 455 years. Below are paintings from the past depicting some holders of the office. 
Pope Eugene lV 1431 - 1447 unknown painter - born in Venice to a rich merchant family
Pope Julius ll by Raphael in 1511 - he commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel
 
Pope Leo X with two Cardinals by Raphael in 1518 - Leo was the 2nd son of Lorenzo de' Medici, the most famous ruler of the Florentine Republic.

Pope Urban Vlll portrait by Pietro da Cortona 1627 - the last pope to expand the papal territory by force of arms, and a prominent patron of the arts.
Pope Innocent X - Velázquez's portrait 1650 - trained as a lawyer and was one of the most politically shrewd pontiffs who much increased the temporal power of the Holy See
The only clues as to the election's progress or lack of it are the puffs of dark smoke that rise four times a day above the Vatican to signal inconclusive ballot papers are being burnt in the Sistine Chapel. Damp straw used to be used to make sure the smoke was grey, but in a rare concession to modernity chemicals are now preferred. Once the winner has emerged, white smoke appears and to avoid any doubt, church bells are also rung.
images via wikipedia and some information courtesy Peter Stanford former editor of the Catholic Herald.

67 comments:

  1. I'm not catholic either but all these stories are quite interesting for me because I love Italy and Vatican as a palace. There are so many masterpieces over there!!!Thank you for these useful informations and have a great day Rosemary!

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    1. Dear Olympia - The Vatican is an extraordinary place, and as you say full of masterpieces. Most lay people know very little about what goes on there, and as an historic occasion is taking place at the moment I thought it might be worthy of a posting.

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  2. I wish I could stay that long in the Sistine Chapel ... Have a nice dat, Rosemary !

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    1. Yes, I agree Dani - the time you are allowed in there does not really give you a chance to totally absorb the paintings - several visits are required.

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  3. I love Raphael's painting of Julius, from the exquisite pleating, to the green background, it is beautiful. Imagine trying to work when in the Sistine Chapel; I would be so distracted by the ceiling .. I have never seen it but hopefully one day. I am Catholic, and am a big fan of red shoes on popes! They add a sense of joy, style and individuality. The old ritual of the election, especially the black and white smoke, seems to fascinate the world. It will be an interesting week.

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    1. Dear Patricia - that is my favourite of the paintings too.
      I had no idea that the cardinals were locked in the Sistine Chapel until I started doing some research into which part of the Vatican the conclave was held.
      I suspect that a lot of people may never have even noticed the red shoes, they first came to my attention when the pope visited the UK in 2010.

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    2. I only recently learned of the red shoes - through a news report on tv. You have chosen beautiful paintings to illustrate this interesting blog post. Have a nice week.

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    3. Dear Sanda - I only became aware of the red shoes when the Pope visited the UK in 2010,
      I am pleased that you found the post interesting and enjoyed seeing the paintings.

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  4. Dear Rosemary, the red shoes that the Pope wears symbolises Jesus' blood and the Pope's white robe has 33 bottons on the front to represent Jesus' life on Earth. I hope the Cardinals will be guided by the Holy Spirit to choose the right Pope.

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    1. Dear Pamela - thank you for that added symbolic information regarding the red shoes and the white robe. I wonder how long the cardinals will be in conclave for this time?

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  5. Lovely post Rosemary. I didn't even know that the Pope wore red shoes until recently. I'm and Irish Catholic, I say that because most of the Nun's that taught me at school were Irish along with the priests who said Mass and helped me with my singing after Mass every Sunday :)until I had my voice trained.
    I particularly like Raphael's paiting of Pope Julius 11, however, they are all lovely.

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    1. Raphael's painting seems to be the tops with everyone - he looks benign on the painting but in actual fact he was nicknamed "The Fearsome" Pope (ll Papa Terribile), and "The Warrior Pope".

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  6. Dear Rosemary, I've been following the election of the new Pope with much interest...but don't know much about the selection and the process. Thank you for this most informative post. I have a feeling that Italy will have an Italian Pope this time around. It's been a while. ox, Gina

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    1. Dear Gina - the election process of the popes is veiled in secrecy. I have read that there doesn't appear to be a front-runner and the past week of deliberations has exposed sharp divisions among the cardinals about some of the pressing problems facing the church, including the governance within the Holy See itself. Apparently when Pope John Paul ll was elected he was not a front runner and it was a complete surprise to everyone especially as he was Polish and the first non Italian for 455 years. However, I too would not be surprised should the choice be an Italian cardinal.

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  7. Hello Rosemary

    A very insightful post. We are eagerly watching and listening and hope for the best and holiest to take the helm.
    On a trivial side, I would hate to surrender the red shoes for brown.

    Hope your week is special
    Helen xx

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    1. Dear Helen - those sentiments regarding the red shoes were precisely the ones of Pope Benedict XVl. However, I do understand that he has taken a real liking to a pair of hand-crafted brown loafers made especially for him by artisans in Leon Mexico and given to him during his 2012 visit.

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  8. Dear Rosemary, I shall show this post to my friend Nancy who is Catholic. She will like it very much. The paintings are beautiful. As always you are on top of what is going on in our world. hugs, Olive

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    1. Dear Olive - thank you for your kind comment, and I do hope that Nancy enjoys reading it. The facts I revealed followed a little bit of research which I found to be of interest. There is so much mystic and mystery surrounding the election of the pope, and it is good to know a little more about the process involved.

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  9. This is such a great post Rosemary - more info. than what I've seen shared in the media. The paintings are beautiful too and my eye was drawn immediately to the texture of the exquisite fabrics in each one.

    The red shoes are so comfortable looking - and of course that style is quite in vogue currently. Being Italian-made one knows the leather and workmanship must be top notch!!!

    Thank you so much for bringing the story and the photos to us. I'm not Catholic but my husband and children are so I do have interest in what happens within the church. I hope the process goes well and quickly - will be watching online for the white smoke and sound of bells!

    Have a happy week - Mary

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    1. Dear Mary - thank you - I am pleased that you found the post of interest. We know so little about what really goes on in the Vatican and this is just a small glimpse of what I have managed to glean.
      I had no idea when I visited the Sistine Chapel that the conclave was actually held there, or that the cardinals were locked in.
      The red shoes are exquisite - typically Italian - wonderful colour and beautiful leather.

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  10. Hi Rosemary! I didn't know about the red shoes! I have red shoes, too!
    Rosemary... I actually don't believe in the Church, as an institution. Jesus Christ did not need money and gold to spread his word. His cathedral was the sky. Whether he was the son of God or a philosopher, he managed to spread his message of love very simply. Maybe, he didn't even own a pair of shoes, as such, red or brown.

    Francis of Assisi gave up all his worldly goods, to live in absolute poverty, whereas Giordano Bruno was executed, because he believed that spirituality and God can only be found in Nature.

    There must be a reason why the Pope had to go... this we will never know. The Pope shouldn't be a head of State and he shouldn't get involved in politics. The Sistine Chapel is beautiful, but it is also a monument to what the Catholic Church is, not to what it should be.

    Whoever wins the "contest" is of no consequence to me. It will not change the world.

    I love Rome! I have been there many times and I would have liked to have seen Pope John Paul II. He was a lovely man who had been an actor, a writer and a partisan. It's the reason why he was so in touch with people.

    End of dissertation!

    HAPPY WEEK!

    ANNA
    xx

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    1. Dear Anna - thanks for all of your interesting comments.
      I can well imagine you have a pair of lovely red Italian shoes, and that they look molto bella on you.
      This is really just an historical and factual post on some aspects of the catholic church as I am no expert.
      However, I think that it holds a fascination and is of interest to many people.
      Ciao♥

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  11. Hello Rosemary, So interesting to learn of the selection process. I hope that they are inspired by their beautiful and beautifully restored meeting chamber, and select a new leader who will put their problems in the past.

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    1. Dear Jim - until I started researching the conclave I had no idea that they met and were locked up in the Sistine Chapel. I have visited it twice, and that fact never came out when I was there. My own opinion is that they could do with choosing a much younger cardinal, and someone who is more in touch with the world as it is today.

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  12. Dear Rosemary,

    I find the goings-on in the Vatican so interesting precisely because there is so much secrecy. I was interested to learn, listening to a recent NPR intereview with a long-time Vatican correspondent, that different branches of the Vatican are unaware of what other branches are doing. Apparently the Pope doesn't hold what we would call cabinet meetings! I would think one priority would be to choose a tested administrator.

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    1. I am not at all surprised at what you say Mark - I am sure life within the Vatican walls mainly resembles the way it has always gone about its business. It is an interesting spectacle for those of us on the outside, but will it change?

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  13. Very interesting indeed. I had no idea about the pope wearing red shoes. Makes me feel like I have been living under a rock. I am anxious to share your post with my mom and see if she knew this. I love the painting of Pope Julius II by Raphael. I was recently at the National Art Gallery admiring it.
    I would love to be a fly on the wall when the cardinals are together deliberating and praying...could be interesting...or not.

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    1. Dear Gina - Raphael's painting is definitely number one with all of the commenters on this post. We are indeed very fortunate to have this lovely painting in the National Gallery, London, and I am pleased that you saw it recently.
      Yes, just imagine how many people would like to be a fly on the wall!!!

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  14. I am a catholic but I never knew the pope wears red shoes. I would love to visit the Sixtine Chapel once, when there are no cardinals around voting for a new pope ;-) Wonder when the smoke will be white.... Didn't know most popes were Italian cardinals either, maybe because I've known pope John Paul II to be the pope for most of my life. I do know there was John Paul I before him but he wasn't a pope for long since he died quite quickly after he became the new pope. And that's about it when it comes to my knowledge of popes.
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian - Pope John Paul l only held office for 33 days in 1978. He was from northern Italy in a place called Agosto which is in the Veneto region, his father was a bricklayer. He was the first Pope born in the 20th century and the last Pope to die in it.
      I am sure that one day you will have the opportunity to visit the Sistine Chapel - I do hope so.

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  15. Dear Rosemary,
    A subject that I have been brought up with. I was brought up with an Irish mother , a very very devout catholic.
    She was a wonderful woman, but I was not allowed to stray from the teachings. I went to convents.
    and always catholic schools. I was totally indoctrinated !
    I was brought up within the church when mass was only in Latin. I belonged to the choir and we only sang in latin.. I took latin for about a year, but went on to something else.
    I have seen six pope's reign, during my lifetime.

    We all knew the story of his red shoes. Only worn outside..not inside.
    The Pope's robes are , like his shoes, made by one of the oldest tailor's in Rome. The business having been handed down from father to son and so on.
    Pope Pius Xll 1939-1958
    I was at school in Africa when he died.
    He was a contreversial pope.!
    Pope John XXlll 1958-1963
    just before I married. (my me and my mother, made holy Novenas months on end sometimes)
    Pope Paul Vl 1963-1978
    John Paul l 1978 -1978.. I remember my mother cried for over a week when he died just after 33 days of his reign.
    When I tried to comfort her, I started to cry too. !
    John Paul ll 1978 -2005
    Pope Benadict XVl 2005-2013. second pope to abdicate in over 600 years.

    There is a history behind the shoes. Very interesting. !
    I love your choice of paintings. I think that they are all splendid.
    Sitting in the chair of St. Peter.

    I so enjoyed reading this post Rosemary.
    There is only one difference between the R.catholic church.. and the High Anglican church. (thats for another time)

    My comment is a little lengthy. Hope It doesnt bore you...
    happy Monday.. Val.



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    1. Dear Val - Everything starts tomorrow. Following Tuesday morning mass, the 115 voting cardinals will proceed to the Sistine Chapel. The first vote will take place tomorrow between 4 - 4.30 pm local time, and by 7.30 pm the vatican will indicate whether a new pope has been selected. However, it is highly unlikely that a pope will be selected at that stage. If a pope is not selected then the following days the cardinals will cast four ballots a day - two in the morning and two in the afternoon - until two thirds agree on a single candidate. Apparently the latest news is that a Canadian cardinal Marc Quellet is considered to be one of the front runners.
      Glad you enjoyed the post Val

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    2. I will be watching for the white smoke.
      it will be very interesting to see who will be the next 'Holy See'
      I myself, think it should be a younger man.

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    3. I agree Val, and also someone who is in touch with the problems that the world faces today. Thanks for your email Val, I will reply in due course.

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  16. So interesting, I love how the colour red resonates throughout your post, from the shoes to the gowns and caps in the paintings. Silly (and probably disrespectful of me) but I can't help think of Dorothy's glittering shoes in The Wizard of Oz.

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    1. I had forgotten about her pretty glittery red shoes, and she wore white socks too!!!
      Now we know why and where the colour cardinal red comes from.

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  17. It was so interesting reading about the red shoes and the election process. The 1650 portrait looks as if could have been created in this century!
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - I discovered about the red shoes when the pope visited the UK in 2010. I started to do a bit of research regarding the election when I wondered where in the Vatican the conclave was held, and was surprised when I discovered it all happened in the Sistine Chapel and also the elaborate procedures that are put in place.

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  18. Thank you for this Rosemary it was excellent. I know a few of those Popes and paintings - studying them this very minute for my final assignment in May. Love red shoes myself.
    Patricia x

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    1. Dear Patricia - presumably you are doing a History of Art degree, and how very timely that you should be studying them at this particularly historic moment.
      Glad you enjoyed the post and thank you.

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  19. Funny with those red shoes, I didn't know you were from London. I was there the whole week, last week. So I am going to publish about your city soon.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. I do not live in London Filip, but in the Cotswold countryside. I used to have an apartment in London and know it well.

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  20. Very interesting post. I remember that when John Paul II (a Polish cardinal) was elected. We lived in London and my son had recently been born. My mother was visiting and went to the local Polish deli on an errand to buy our favourite cold meats and sausages. She came back with tears in her eyes because the owners were in high excitement, over the fact that they had a Polish Pope. My mother was a Catholic and said they had suffered so much in the war (WW11) and that she was so happy for them. He was a good Pope I think. Much revered and missed. We hope for someone who can bring much needed inspiration and honesty of thought word and deed to the second millennium of Christianity and Roman Catholicism. The world needs good people who can do this, whatever their religion.

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    1. I also remember Pope John Paul ll being elected. I believe that he was a very genuine person. You could see it in his face. I remember that it was quite a shock as he was not considered to be one of the contenders. The cardinals are aware that they have problems within the church and also with the world outside of the Vatican so hopefully they will be taking this into account when choosing the next cardinal to take on the important role.
      Thank you for your visit and welcome.

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  21. A very interesting , informative, and insightful post, rosemary. I haven’t noticed Pope’s red shoes until now. On the last election, I learned the word “conclave” for the first time. We have Japanese word “konkurabe” meaning “test of endurance”. Conclave is indeed “konkurabe” regarding the long enduring process of choosing the next Pope. Thanks for this post.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - glad that you found the post interesting. As we are experiencing an historical event this week with the cardinals going into conclave today, I thought that I would do a bit of research in to what goes on.

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  22. Thank you for all this information, Rosemary. I didn't know that the Pope has red shoes. I've never noticed it. Last summer, vi visited Vatican with my family. It's a stunning place to see.

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    1. Dear Satu - I am pleased that you found the post interesting, and that it may have reminded you of your visit to the Vatican. There are so many wonderful art works to see in the Vatican, plus it is a magnificent building to visit.

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  23. Thank you for this interesting post. No matter what one's view about the institution of the Roman Catholic church there's a sense of history about the election of a pope which doesn't happen every day! The ritual surrounding the election behind locked doors is fascinating. There are some wonderful treasures in the Vatican Museums and galleries. Apart from the Sistine Chapel, my favourite is the artwork in the Raphael Rooms and the painting of St. Peter's escape from prison helped by an angel.

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    1. Dear Linda - you are right, I did not intend this post to be about the institution of the Roman Catholic church but about the historical significance of it and the procedures surround it which are shrouded in so much mystery. Yes, the artwork in the Vatican is mind blowing, in fact by the time you reach the Sistine Chapel your mind is already suffering from overload by seeing so many wonderful paintings. One of the standout things for me, from the architectural point of view, is the wonderful double helix stairway as you enter. I could have watched the people going up and down without passing each other for much longer than the opportunity allowed.

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  24. That stairway is amazing, Rosemary. I like the long walk through the galleries before you get to the Sistine Chapel and I find the huge maps on the walls fascinating. We have had children with us sometimes, so it can be very tiring and we usually stay overnight in Rome itself near the Vatican so that we have a head start with the queues! Otherwise, we are blessed to be able to go into the city on a day trip.

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  25. Dear Rosemary,
    I enjoyed this post. It was very informative.
    I knew about the red slippers and then there is that furred red cap that Pope Benedict reintroduced. It is shown in some of the images that accompany this post.
    Once a cardinal reaches the age of eighty he is illegible to vote - but I guess he could still technically be elected as Pope...
    Having been on pilgrimages to St Peter's a few times I find the Sistine Chapel to be an awe-inspiring place. To be sitting in there, trying to determine the Will of the Holy Spirit as you prepare to cast your vote. I think it would be almost overwhelming as an experience!
    Black smoke this evening. Will there be white smoke tomorrow?

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    1. Dear Kirk - I had not heard about the black smoke this evening - my prediction is that we shall have an answer by the weekend - that of course leaves it wide open Friday, Saturday or Sunday - hedging my bets. I think that Pope Benedict had a touch of the flamboyance about him, much more so than Pope John Paul.

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  26. I'm was raised Catholic, but don't belong to any church now. Thanks for all of the information, Rosemary. Fascinating stuff! I love all the mystery that surrounds the conclave and the Vatican.

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    1. History is in the process of being made currently - apparently black smoke came out of the Sistine Chapel roof this evening.

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  27. O czerwonych butach wiedziałam i w Watykanie byłam. Nie przeżywam jednak specjalnie wyboru papieża, bo to już z pewnością nie będzie Polak. Miło było czytać w komentarzach powyżej dobre wypowiedzi o Janie Pawle II - papieżu Polaku. Pozdrawiam.
    The red shoes I knew and the Vatican. I experience no choice but especially the pope, because it's certainly not a Pole. It was nice to read good comments above statements of John Paul II - Pope Pole. Yours.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Giga - I think that Pope John Paul ll was one of the most popular popes of all time.

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  28. Hello, Rosemary, thank you for this very informative post ; I find those paintings beautiful especially since the representation of fabric is one of my passions (that lace on pope Urban VIII is splendid). I am not a Catholic either but when I heard that "Extra omnes" on television, I became a bit emotional and I can only imagine the happiness and hope that people outside will feel when they see that white smoke rising. However, eating in room called "Sala Borgia" would scare me a bit !....

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    1. Precisely, my thoughts too re: Sala Borgia - remembering the family's legendary crimes, especially poisoning by arsenic!!!

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  29. Hi Rosemary, the red shoes are so beautifully made, very befitting a person of such high stature! I've never thought that paintings of old men would be interesting, but with your background information, I look at them with a different perception. Thanks for the mini histroy lesson. As I've read the Da Vinci Code, parts of it are familar; the locked-in, the puffs of dark and white smoke. Interesting!

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    1. The textiles and the colours used in the pictures are both beautifully painted and observed, glad that you found the post interesting.

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  30. Fascinating as always, Rosemary and I watched the announcement of the new pope with great interest. My first impression of him was very positive, though I couldn't see whether he was wearing red shoes. :-)

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    1. I am having a little bet with myself Perpetua - I suspect that he will disown the red shoes, but I could be wrong. It appears that he is a very modest man who travels on the bus rather than a special chauffeur driven car, and moved out of the bishops palace in Argentina for an apartment.

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    2. I heard the same and this is what made such a good impression on me, that and his very understated and modest first appearance.

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  31. Thanks for this informative post, Rosemary. I shared it on my Facebook page - hope you don't mind.

    I learned a thing or two - things I must have known at one time, after all I am a Catholic. But things that have sort of disappeared into the mists of memory.

    Love those red shoes. Easy to see they are beautifully made. I like the idea of the Pontiff wearing them all the time.

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    1. Dear Yvette - glad that you enjoyed the post, and I do not mind that you shared it on your Facebook. I was delighted when I discovered that the conclave was held in the Sistine Chapel but having visited there myself wondered how they could manage within the chapel for a long period. My mind started working overtime, and I had to find out how they could all live there for, if necessary, a long period of time. As it happens they only spent one night there.

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