BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
HAUTE COUTURE rows, it seems, are not restricted to hissy fits between Parisian fashion houses.
It emerged this week that a battle of papal cassocks is currently waging at the Vatican as two of the most respected ateliers in Rome fight over the right to sew Benedict’s buttons.
Since 1792 Gammarelli’s has enjoyed papal privilege providing the traditional white 30-button cassock in all shapes and sizes.
A sign over its front door reads: Sartoria per Ecclesiastici, or clerical outfitters, and the establishment, just off the Piazza Minerva, has dressed popes, cardinals, monsignors and priests for over 200 years.
But Pope Benedict has allegedly broken with tradition and, according to reports in a German newspaper, has decided that his tailor of 20 years, Mancinelli’s, should now dress him.
Raniero Mancinelli told Die Aktuelle that Benedict had opted for comfort over conformity.
“Gammarelli’s cassocks are sewn beyond all the rules of tailoring art,” he said.“The Pope was visibly not comfortable in them so he came back to us and is breaking with tradition.” But Annibale Gammarelli will not give up the Pontiff’s buttonholes without a fight: “That is malicious gossip and plain envy,” he thundered. “We work with absolute accuracy and with the best seamstresses. I am not going to let Raniero Mancinelli get me out of the way.” Before the conclave Gammarelli prepared the garments for the next Pope, displaying the cassocks in sizes large, medium and small in its shop window. Not even the very best efforts of an Italian cardinal sworn to secrecy could reveal the dimensions of the next Pontiff.
But Benedict did look a little out of sorts as he took his first steps in papal white. The Roman style police muttered that the cassocks seemed a little short, displaying rather more papal ankle than was the norm. Catholics were, after all, used to the statuesque and sweeping form of John Paul II.
Die Aktuelle claims that it was Benedict’s sister, Maria, who first discovered Mancinelli’s small shop directly opposite the Vatican when she came to Rome as housekeeper for her brother.
The then Cardinal Ratzinger liked to order three cassocks – two in a regular size and one slightly more generous for some Bavarian feasting.
Manicelli insisted this week that it now has a long list of orders from the Holy See for cassocks, for feast days and everyday, in addition to shoes, socks and coats.
A papal cassock uses 4.5 metres of material: a winter weight one of fine wool and a summer light variety made of cotton. Each cassock takes 20 hours to sew. But whose finger will be on the needle?