For the new pope, it’s all sewn up – small, medium or large

February 15, 2013

(Shoemaker Antonio Arellano works on a red shoe he made for Pope Benedict XVI in his shop in downtown Rome February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

At Gammarelli, a discreet oak-panelled tailor’s shop in central Rome, they are expected to be already creating sumptuous vestments for the new pope – in small, medium and large sizes so whoever is chosen will get the right fit.

Few of the tourists strolling past on their way to the Pantheon, one of Rome’s grandest ancient temples, give the shop at 34 Via Santa Chiara a second glance. Locals who know it is the pope’s tailor are a bit more curious.

“Looks like they have it ready,” says one, peering at a golden cassock in the window of the 200-year-old ecclesiastical outfitters, speculating that it might be the costume the future pope will wear on day 1.

Tradition dictates that three versions of the same vestments will be made in advance for the new pope, whatever his size, be it, for example, Timothy Dolan, the portly Archbishop of New York, or the diminutive Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines.

Once the white smoke has appeared from the Sistine Chapel, signifying that a pope has been chosen, nuns at the Vatican make last-minute alterations to the robes that are the closest fit before the new pontiff walks out onto his balcony to face the world.

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