Today Gillian and I had the chance to go to Castel Gandolfo, the summer retreat of the popes, just outside of Rome. Well, the new pope, Franciscus, has to date declined the honour of going there for the summer. Instead he prefers to stay in the Vatican, since, as he allegedly said, many other Romans do not have a summer retreat either. But Franciscus is still very much present in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo: a large portrait of his hangs next to that of his immediate predecessors, and what a difference! It may have been the painter(s), but next to that of Benedictus XVI, looking stern and, forgive me, very German, and that of John-Paul II looking benign but dressed in full, traditional, papal regalia, it is Franciscus who looks simple and positively sympathetic, with friendly eyes following you, and being dressed in basic attire (including normal lace-up shoes, rather than the silk, pontifical slippers worn by his predecesssors).
But that was not all at Castel Gandolfo. The museum downstairs houses a plethora of papal vestments, and also the elaborate garments (military, diplomatic, etc) worn by the men (!) in his immediate surroundings. Some of them very military in style. The embroidery on some of the garments and other textiles, often worked with gold thread, was absolutely stunning. Finally, when in the Villa d'Este a few days ago we were struck by the imitation tapestries having (quickly) been painted onto almost all of the walls, at Castel Gandolfo we saw many 'real' tapestries, and fragments of tapestries that had been framed and hung from the wall. Alas there were no books or further information about the palace, textiles or more particularly the embroideries, but perhaps that will be organised in the future. Well worth seeing for anyone visiting Rome. The vast gardens are also worth a visit. There is a special trip through the huge gardens in a little white train that takes about one hour.
Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 31 December 2016
TRC in a nutshell
Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428 firstname.lastname@example.org
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