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One-Stop Religious Shopping

19 Sep

I’ve never highlighted Via de’ Cestari before, and to think that for nearly four years I worked in a historic palazzo right on the corner. That building is one of a few throughout Rome classified as “zona extraterritoriale” — meaning that once you cross through the entry gates, you’re officially on Vatican soil. This is where the study abroad programs I managed used to be housed (offices and classrooms), and it was quite an interesting situation since we were the only non-religious group in the building. Despite a few snafus once in a while with some “wardrobe malfunctions” witnessed by shocked elderly nuns (transparent dress with black thong underwear, anyone?), the corresponding phone calls from the head honcho Monsignore (just a few steps down the hierarchy from the Pope) to my office, and my little chit chats with the college-age folk about the appropriateness of dress in a Vatican palazzo… we got by without too many hiccups.

I suppose I grew accustomed then to the myriad of religious shops surrounding the palazzo. Lately, especially since I don’t work there anymore and so when I pass by I’ve become more observant, I’ve noticed how tourists often stop and marvel at the window displays. And I thought, you know, I guess this is kind of out-of-the-ordinary.

So if you’ve ever wondered where the churches get their gear, look no further! This is where nuns and priests can go on big-time shopping sprees.

Like you saw in the first photo of this post, the windows of the numerous shops that line Via de’ Cestari (just before you reach the Pantheon coming from Largo Argentina) display lots and lots of shiny gold church stuff. I was raised Catholic so I grew up seeing many of these things on Sundays, albeit perhaps not always quite as extravagant, but I never really thought much about where they came from. I guess I figured they must all come from a catalog or something. But when in Rome, if you’re the acquisitions person for your church, you can do serious window shopping.

Love this. The latest in nun fashion.

Ah! The choices! Gray? Or black? I just can’t decide!!

Trendy outerwear for the ski vacation in Aspen.

These are truly works of art in their intricate embroidery. Unfortunately there aren’t any price lists in the window like you see in other apparel shops, but I think it’s easy to surmise that they must easily cost thousands of euros.

And, last but not least, what have we here? Like a traditional black housecall doctor’s bag, we have what I can only think to call the “priest to go” kit:

Everything you’d need to perform a mass on the run.

When Pope Benedict was elected, a few articles popped up about “the pope’s tailor.” Apparently, just around the corner from Via de’ Cestari, steps from the Pantheon in Piazza Minerva, is Gammarelli. I haven’t ever taken specific notice of Gammarelli among the other shops, but there’s a charming article here written by a BBC reporter who tried to buy a pair of cardinal’s socks there. Gammarelli is also highlighted in another BBC article from a year later here.

Something I do find very unique about Rome is the “marriage” so to speak between Rome and the Vatican, and how you shouldn’t be surprised to find your path cross with groups of priests, nuns, and monks going about their daily affairs in the city. So now, if you too would like a pair of cardinal’s socks, you know where to go.

Slabbinck, Via de’ Cestari 35-37
De Ritis, Via de’ Cestari 48
Gammarelli, Via Santa Chiara 34

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13 Responses to “One-Stop Religious Shopping”

  1. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy September 19, 2007 at 11:27 am #

    Ha! Shelley, I never told you this, but a friend of mine is the manager of one of those stores (I won’t say which..) and this person’s erm…not even a praticing Catholic!! Oh, the irony.

  2. nyc/caribbean ragazza September 19, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    Is the Pope still rocking his red Prada shoes? I don’t why but when I read that it made me cracked up. Does he get a discount?

  3. Shelley, At Home in Rome September 19, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Sara: OMG, that’s great.

    NYC: The Pope wears Prada? That’s classic. Maybe it could be the sequel to “The Devil Wears Prada” !

  4. Martin September 19, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    Thanks for posting those photos. I would have never thought a Bishop could go to a store to pick out a shiny gold miter. I figured those had to be obtained from some official channels.

    Oh .. about the Pope and Prada shoes. Supposedly those are made by the pope’s personal cobbler (per this WSJ article). Though, I would imagine the Pope could get Prada shoes for free is he wanted them. If Julia Roberts can get free dresses from Valentino … the Pope’s gotta be able to get similar gifts as well.

  5. rachael September 19, 2007 at 10:13 pm #

    I never really thought about where all the ‘stuff’ came from. I never expected to see a nun’s habit in a store window. But then I have never been to Italy. Not yet anyway.

  6. Autumn September 20, 2007 at 12:47 pm #

    haha…great place to shop for a halloween costume!

  7. jessica in rome September 20, 2007 at 7:58 pm #

    What I want to know is where the Lolly-Popes are! I heard so much about them in the states and everyone wanted one as a souvenir, but I have still not seen them!

  8. Shelley, At Home in Rome September 20, 2007 at 11:13 pm #

    Martin: Great article find! “Pontifical product placements” — fantastic. Next thing you know his garments will start looking like a soccer jersey with product sponsorships!

    Autumn: Hmmm… Halloween costume… I like the way you think… you could be onto something here. I should ask how much the stuff costs. One Halloween my mom, who is an incredible seamstress, made costumes for her and my dad as a nun and priest for a costume party, and I got to wear the nun costume myself one year for trick or treating!

    Jessica: Lolly Popes? A quick Googling got me this , but it’s a year old so clearly I will have to do some more research!

  9. qualcosa di bello September 24, 2007 at 2:22 am #

    *now* i know where to shop for my priest friends!

  10. discoballman October 24, 2007 at 3:47 am #

    Ciao!
    I am in NY and am leaving for Rome this weekend.
    I was told that there is a shop that sells sox to Cardinals, bright red and purple of very high quality for low price. Question: Where? Also,
    can anyone shop in these store or do you need your God card?
    Thanks,

    Ciao!

  11. Shelley, At Home in Rome October 24, 2007 at 5:04 pm #

    As far as I know you can buy these socks at Gammarelli (click on the link in the above post). I don’t think you need a special card or anything… believe it’s open to the public… the BBC reporter didn’t mention needing any special privileges to purchase there. Good luck!

  12. faizan ansari March 16, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    respective sir,
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  13. The Rev. Gerald G. Alexander April 3, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    Thank you for the article. I went into the “church stores” and found I needed to own a bank to afford many of the items I thought were great. Could you do me a favor and verify the name and telephone number of one of the shops I want to contact? I think the name is something like Statuary de’ Arte. Its on Cestari close to Gammarelli. Help please. Disregard the email notice that emails don’t go through. Thanks. Gee Alexander

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