Ah, the age-old question: Where does the pope buy his clothes? Have you given that a lot of thought? I’d never considered it, not even once, until a couple of weeks ago.
As you can imagine, Rome is crawling with people from various religious communities, generally Christian, but also others from around the world. Many live here, and some are making a pilgrimage to the spiritual center of Western religion—St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. The vestments that they wear range from simple clerical collars to elaborate cassocks with colorful fascia (sashes). So if any city is going to have vestment stores, Rome’s the one.
Michael and I were strolling through our neighborhood one evening when we happened across De Ritis, about a block south of the Pantheon. I stopped dead in my tracks—I’d never seen such a thing! De Ritis has seven or eight windows filled with every kind of outer garment worn by women and men in the religious community. It sells elaborate vestments for special seasons, surplices, head coverings or all sorts, everyday jackets, gray woolen sweaters, even briefcases and handbags. The pope doesn’t shop at De Ritis though. He buys his vestments across the street at Gammarelli, tailors to the papacy since 1789.
Since that walk, I’ve seen several other vestment and liturgical stores, many clustered near the Pantheon. I imagine many more are located near the Vatican. I haven’t seen anyone go in or out of De Ritis, but this morning, two nuns were window-shopping there. They were so cute. I couldn’t get my camera out of my purse fast enough to snap them with their faces up next to the window, but if they hadn’t been wearing their habits, they would have looked like any other women interested in the latest fashion designs.
One morning when I was walking near St. Peter’s, a cardinal walked up the street toward me. About half way up the block, two elderly ladies stopped him. He talked with them briefly and laid his hands on their heads. They curtsied and thanked him, and they all went on their way. It was such a sweet scene.
One of my favorite vestments is worn by the nuns of Bridgettine Order, who live at the Casa di Santa Brigida in Piazza Farnese. Their vestments are simple: grayish-blue gowns and black head coverings with a white cross on top. I have tried many times to sneak a photo of these nuns, but to no avail. I tried three shots today: people stepped in front of the nuns in two photos, and a trash trucked parked in front of me while I was trying to take the third (it’s the curse of the 116 bus!). I got one photo of the back of one of the nuns, so that’s all you get.
So now you know where the pope buys his clothes. I’m happy I could help.