Ohio Chapter’s Restoration of the First Popemobile

Traditionally, when a pope wanted to travel, he was carried in the sedia gestaoria: a chair carried on the shoulders of a number of papal attendants. Transportation at the time was such that the Pope rarely could leave the hallowed halls of Vatican City. However, in the  mechanized age, Papal transportation began to be more modernized. in 1930, during the priestly jubilee of Pius XI (1922-1939) a special automobile arrived. Pius XI’s actually received a few cars, but possibly the most remarkable was a Graham Paige limousine given to him by the Graham brothers from America (members of the Knights of Columbus – he also had a prestigious Citroën “Lictoria” made in Milan, and a Nurburg style Mercedes Benz).

The limousine was presented in the Vatican on November 9, 1929. Carriage-work was made by the famous American coachbuilder, LeBaron and the sumtuous upholstery was in silk of Havana brown and silver, with the metal accents in gold. Recently, due to the efforts of the Ohio Chapter, the car was restored and now resides in the Vatican Carriage Museum. It remains one of the most fascinating exhibits there.

Today, when we picture the Popemobile, it’s the Mercedes with the bulletproof glass.  Since an assassination attempt on then-Pope John Paul II in 1981, the head of the Roman Catholic Church has customarily used the custom-made glass-sided Popemobile when in public. But Pope Francis told a Spanish newspaper that he prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile despite the dangers of an assassination attempt because it walls him off from people.

Link to Pope Francis’s Popemobile interview

“It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he told Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia in an interview published Friday and reported on in English by Vatican Radio. “I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God.”

Never been to the Carriage Museum? That’s because it’s been a bit difficult to find inside the Vatican – and that’s a shame, because it houses some wonderful pieces. Help us bring more traffic to the Carriage Pavilion – with your help we can create a new modern entrance that attracts visitors and befits the grandeur of the exhibits – be a Popemobile patron! http://www.vatican-patrons.org/new-entrance-of-the-carriages-museum-2205

See the classic car (and much more) at the Carriage Museum. It’s not to be missed.

Dr. Sandro Barbagallo, Assistant Director of the Vatican Museums, with the Graham Paige Limo.

Dr. Sandro Barbagallo, Assistant Director of the Vatican Museums, with the Graham Paige Limo.

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Proposed plans for the new Carriages Museum Entrance in our 2015 WISHBOOK.

Proposed plans for the new Carriages Museum Entrance in our 2015 WISHBOOK.

Illinois Patrons during their Chapter Visit in the Carriage Museum with Vatican Museums Director Antonio Paolucci

Illinois Patrons during their Chapter Visit in the Carriage Museum with Vatican Museums Director Antonio Paolucci