ROME — Not far from Vatican City, there’s a street in downtown Rome where the shops sell everything a priest - or even a pope - might need to minister to his flock.
The Vatican may be the capital of the Roman Catholic faith, but Via Dei Cestari in downtown Rome is the church's sartorial center.
And business is brisk these days. This clothier sells all sorts of vestments for all types of clergy, says saleswoman Valiera Catucci. “We make this by hand, all by hand. This is for the priest, or for the bishop,” she said.
And this is for the pope. Pope Benedict wore a version of this mitre last Easter.
The shop also offers the full range of sacred hardware - and all these chalices and crucifixes and tabernacles are worth a pretty penny.
“I am a person who always likes very beautiful things," explained Luciano Ghezzi, owner. "I don’t like having cheap things, because cheap doesn’t last.”
And it’s what his clients want.
“Priests are people who are very precise and they want quality,” Ghezzi added.
Reverend Basil Ekwunife has ordered chasubles - a priestly outer garment - to take back to southern Nigeria. It’s not that you can’t get them there.
“In my archdiocese we have more than 10 places where you prepare them. But because of the significance of Rome, and the kind of embellishments that goes with it here in Rome, we come to Rome to get them,” he said.
You don’t have to be the pope’s fashion consultant to window shop on Via dei Cestari. But you could be.
Just down the street, clothier Lorenzo Gammarelli has been outfitting popes since the 1920s. And he’s fairly certain that at least one of these cassocks will fit the man chosen to be next.
This time it was a rush order, he said. “A few days after Pope Benedict announced that he was going to resign, we received the order from the Vatican to make the three sets of vestments for the new pope,” he added.
He laughs off the suggestion that the sizes are based on inside knowledge. But is there a secret to getting it right every time?
“Yes there is a secret, but I won’t tell you,” said Gammarelli.
But what about a hint? There’s only one pair of shoes in the window.