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“Italy the Extraordinary Commonplace”

25 Jan

We often read of the demise of Italy as a major producer and exporter, so the following video was made to counter some of these less than favorable descriptions.

Per Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy,

The video “Italy the extraordinary commonplace” is designed to show Italy beyond stereotypes, a major producer of technological goods and the second European exporter in mechanical engineering and automation. 

Since I love visiting Italy, I found this information to be great news. As for the format, well, leave it to the ever creative Italians. Thanks, Anna, for sharing.

Ciao,

Judy

Through His Words: Day Thirty-One

13 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

Rome
Monday. August 15, 1938

“Eureka” !!

At last I received word from home and Maude dearest, was I ever so happy I felt like a child with the new toy. I got one from you, one from Billy, and one from Joe Montenegro, and it is just exactly one month since I left home.

You say you sent two letters to Naples. Well Naples is my last port of call and of course, I won’t get them until I get there Wednesday. I had hoped you sent some to Milan via American Express Company, which I should have received by now, however, I was so glad to hear from you, I will forgive you for any errors you may have made in connection with the mail.

Sometimes we just need to vent our frustrations!

I am glad to hear everyone home is in good health and Billy tells me he sees to it that you get out and enjoy yourself. Thank Billy for his letter, it was real cute. Also tell him I have taken a lot of pictures to show him when I get home. I am also very happy to know Monte is getting better. It certainly was a tragedy, and what a difference it would have made if he was in good condition and had made the trip with me.

I had expected to go to the American Express Company hoping to get mail, but this is a holiday over here. In fact, from Saturday to Tuesday, all shops are closed. The holiday is called Ferragosto and it is equal to our Labor Day.

Still celebrated today, Ferragosto is the August 15 holiday when Italians celebrate the harvest following a long period of agricultural labor.

Well, I took it rather easy yesterday, it being Sunday. I went to St. Peter’s to church,

St. Peter's at night - blogginginitaly.com

St. Peter’s at night – blogginginitaly.com

after which I walked around the Foro Romano (ruins) and the Coliseum.

romeisalwaysagoodidea

romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com

Then I went to Fermes for dinner. They have been very nice to me and I wish you will drop them a line when I get home for the hospitality shown me. He has been with me every day since I got here, and I have met some very big shots here through him. By the way, his brother is a big mogul here but I am out of luck so far as meeting Prince Potenziani and others as they are all out of town in the country and naturally cannot be seen. However, I saw the Pope and I’m satisfied.

Alex was the first licensed Italian-American architect in the state of Illinois. In 1933, the Century of Progress Exhibition would open in Chicago. Prince Potenziani, the Royal Italian Commissioner to the Exposition, had chosen Alex to supervise the construction of the Italian Pavilion. The Prince was in Chicago for its opening, and bestowed a decoration on Alex for his work.

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center

February 20, 1933 Ground Breaking for the Italian Pavilion. Prince Potenziani center. (Herald and Examiner Photo)

Italian Pavilion Alexander V Capraro  - Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Italian Pavilion 1933,   M. Derenzi, A. Libera, A. Valente –  Architects Rome
Alexander V. Capraro – Associate and Supervising Architect, Chicago

Mr. and Mrs. Ferme and I went to the Camposanto of Rome early in the evening and it certainly was a sight to behold, altogether different from ours. Then we went to what is known as the “Baths of Caracalla” – an old ruin immense in size. They use it for open air grand opera. You should only have the chance to see it. It is a spectacle no other place in the world has. The opera was Aida. The stage, set between two huge pillars several thousand years old, 400 musicians in the orchestra, 1000 actors on the stage, the best opera stars, 20,000 people in the audience, and the seats filled only about one-third of the inside of the magnificent ruin.

BathsOfCaracalla en.wikipedia.org

Baths of Caracalla –  en.wikipedia.org

Still today during the summer, the Caracalla Baths turn into a platform for breathtaking Teatro dell Opera performances. I need to add this to our Bucket list!

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

tatistidbits.com/2012/09/24

 Powerful lights turn night into day. Finally the lights go out, the orchestra starts playing, and then absolute silence in the throng of 20,000 spectators, real music lovers, real critics of ability. And I was almost breathless in the enjoyment of such a marvelous spectacle, a performance which can be held only in Rome, the Eternal City. And what a wonderful city this is. Paris was great, Venice was unusual and wonderful, but Rome is ever interesting, ever bewitching, the city of antiquity and modernism all-in-one; the city of the Caesars of yesterday and of great men of today. Clean as a whistle, law and order 100%, and no end to art, sculpture, painting, music and culture.

1938 Roma postcard

1938 Roma postcard

The men and women both dress as good if not better than we do in the States and they parade on the streets in smart style and the height of fashion. The evenings are spent mostly at little tables on the sidewalks, eating gelati or caffe. Every street is almost the same as far is this feature is concerned and all of them are lighted better than Madison Street at Crawford Avenue. Well, I better stop raving because I could go on like this for hours about Rome.

Today I visited three of the most important churches next to St. Peter’s, besides some smaller ones, and best of all, I made the holy stairs of St. John the Lateran. This is the most sacred spot in Rome. As the enclosed card shows, there are 28 wooden steps leading to an altar of our crucified Lord.

St. John Lateran

St. John Lateran

In order to gain an indulgence, you must kneel on the first step and say certain prayers, or the rosary will do. You must continue this on each and every step without rising on your feet or without touching the step below with your feet – only your knees. In other words, you must drag yourself up to the top on your hands and knees, stopping at each step to say prayers. I did it today and believe me, I thought I would never get to the 28th step. My kneecaps felt as if they were torn to pieces by the time I finished, but I made it, and Maude, what a feeling of relief as well as gratitude towards our Lord you have when you get to the top. Well, I hope the good Lord will reward the effort in answer to the prayers I offered for you, et all.

The other churches follow in rank next to St. Peter’s are St. Paul, St. John Lateran, and Santa Maria Maggiore.

St. Paul

St. Paul

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore interior - blogginginitaly.com

Santa Maria Maggiore interior – blogginginitaly.com

They are so gorgeous it is difficult to describe the grandeur of these churches. All told, there are 400 churches, every one of them would make Resurrection looks sick. In the main churches I mentioned, you could actually put a half dozen churches like Resurrection and still have room for Santa Maria on Alexander Street.

Then I saw the Pantheon, a very old edifice where the bodies of King Victor Emmanuel II and others are buried.

Pantheon at night - bloggingintialy.com

Pantheon at night – bloggingintialy.com

Tomorrow I shall spend at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and National Museum, and then I think I shall have seen enough of Rome to remember it vividly.

Two of the most beautiful art treasures Alex would long remember are Michelangelo’s Pieta, (1498–1499)

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

and his Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-1512).

You should have a month here alone to do a good job of it. It is 8 PM and I am waiting for Ferme to go out to dinner somewhere. 

P.S. Confidential
Ferme and I have seen certain officials here about the decoration for PA and it will come but not before April 21, 1939. There is an absolute law that cannot be broken by anyone that this particular class of decoration be given and presented on April 21 only, that being Natale di Roma and Festa di Lavoro. The decoration is called Stella Merita di Lavoro and is given an recognition for long and meritorious labor. Ferme has already written the council in Chicago about it.

Based on my research, this “medal of honor” dates back to a Royal Decree 1898 to recognize industrialists and their employees. In 1927,  it was extended to Italians living abroad who have given evidence of patriotism, honesty and hard work as an example to their countrymen. Alex was researching the viability of this honor for his father-in-law, Maude’s father.

In the meantime, good luck, and God bless you. Loads of love and my very best to all at home.

Finally Alex was content. He had heard from his family and knew all was well. He effortlessly penned an eight page letter to Maude, the love of his life, describing in detail the treasures of Rome he would never forget, and that she would only ever “see” through his eyes. Lucky for Maude, Alex’s eyes absorbed deep beyond the surface, as only an architect could.

As ever yours, AL 

Ciao

Judy

 

Through His Words: Day Twenty-Seven

7 Jun

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

 

Grand Hotel Flora – Roma

August 11, 1938

Darling Modesta

At last I have arrived in the eternal city. I left Siena this morning bright and early, 7:03 AM, and got here this noon. It was awful hot coming down on the train and you could feel it getting hotter as we neared Rome. Siena is much cooler because it is up in the mountains, while Rome is closer to the sea and low.

I had a little lunch and at the same time started to map out what I was going to see. One of the interesting spots is near my hotel, so I walked over to it, the Villa Borghese and the gardens of the Borghese.

In January, I visited The Hotel Flora at the end of Via Veneto overlooking the Borghese gardens, had a wonderful tour, and tried to imagine Alex’s pure delight at seeing the treasures of the eternal city.

Villa Borghese is a large palace now used as an art gallery which contains originals of Michelangelo, Raffaelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Bernini, and other famous sculptors and painters. You know, it is almost fantastic to see the palaces the people in power of those days lived in. We have nothing like it anywhere in America.

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Villa_borghese.JPG

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Villa_borghese.JPG

Try to imagine a plot of land equal to Columbus Park, only more beautifully landscaped with formal gardens, big old trees, marble and bronze statuary, and wonderful fountains here and there, and the palace about the size of the Art Institute, and you have a pretty fair picture of this villa and gardens.

The Borghese Gardens

The Borghese Gardens

The Borghese family had two popes in it, and these were built when the church was the governing body of the state or country. From a hill nearby, I got a fair panorama of one side of Rome  and I gazed on St. Peter’s and numerous other church domes which could be seen at a distance.

Like Alex, I took several panorama photos of Rome, these from the Grand Hotel Flora’s incredible rooftop deck.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

I called up the Fermes when I got back and had quite a long telephone conversation with Mrs. Ferme, because Ferme was out and would not be back until late. She was very glad to talk with someone from Chicago, and judging from her talk, she doesn’t like it here as well as Chicago, especially because her two big boys are back in America. She invited me over for dinner with them tomorrow night, and Ferme is coming over to see me in the morning to give me some information on how to see as much of Rome in five days as possible. She asked about you and sends her best regards.

Tonight after supper, I walked quite a bit and saw the Coliseum, The Forum, the ruins of this and that, and many structures dating back several centuries before Christ.

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

blogginginitaly.com

The impression is awe inspiring, the city is wonderfully clean, and the streets are lined with beautiful trees of tropical nature, palms, magnolias, etc. Tomorrow I shall start about visiting these places and probably make the Vatican in St. Peter’s first. It is going to take a lot of time here because there is so much to see. Will let you know more tomorrow night.

Greetings to the family and a big and tight embrace for you.” Wait until I get home!”

Yes, he wrote that!

Love, Al

Ciao,

Judy

 

More Rome

18 Feb

My last two days in Rome brought some incredible experiences. I spent Tuesday with Roman locals, the parents of a friend from Austin. Giovanna picked me up Tuesday morning and we did a whirlwind tour around Rome. We began the day at The Church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill in Rome, the oldest surviving Roman basilica.

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It is famous for its cypress doors, which may date to the early 5th century when the church was built, and are said to contain the first depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus.

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From there we drove to the Villa del Priorato di Malta, home to the Grand Priory in Rome of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which remains a sovereign entity. IMG_1528

The Villa may be best known for a keyhole in the door

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through which you can clearly see Saint Peter’s Basilica, far across the city. The first photo is from my phone; the second shows exactly what you see through the keyhole.

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220px-StPetersBasilica_Keyhole_2

wiki photo

From there, we saw part of the original Roman Wall called the Servian Wall, sections of which are still visible in various locations around Rome. The Servian Wall was a defensive barrier constructed around the city of Rome  in the early 4th century BC.

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Next on to lunch at my “guide’s” home. What a thrill it is for me to be invited into the home of local Romans and share in their passion for all things Italian. I was introduced to Giovanna’s husband and together we shared wonderful conversation and the most delicious lunch, beginning with Champaign in the drawing-room.

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From there, we moved to the dining room and were treated to Spaghetti con vongole

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Sicilian artichokes and a rolled meat and cheese dish (sorry I don’t know the name!)

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IMG_1542A beautiful vegetable terrine

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Fennel saladIMG_1544

and homemade apple torta!

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We conversed easily in both Italian and English and spent a great deal of time talking about places and treasures to visit in Italy.

After lunch, more of my tour. First up was a ride along Appia Antica, or as you may know it, the Appian Way. IMG_1550

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From there we drove to the Pyramid of Cestius, built around 18BC-12BC as a tomb for magistrate Gaius Cestius. At the time it was built, it lay in the open countryside as tombs were not permitted within the city walls.

IMG_1557The pyramid was incorporated into the Aurelian Walls, close to Porta San Paolo.

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Up next, La Bocca della Verità, aka The Mouth of Truth. This ancient Roman marble disc displays a carving of a man-like face and is thought to have been part of a first century fountain or even a manhole cover. Legend has it that if you tell a lie, and put your hand in the mouth, it will be bitten off. So be warned! During the 17th century, it was placed in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the church which is home to relics of St. Valentine.

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And finally, on to ancient temples before heading home.IMG_1563

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What an amazing day I had, with my ever hospitable and knowledgeable private tour guide and now new friend.

And to think we did all that in this:

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Giovanna, grazie per una giornata meravigliosa e una ricorderò sempre!

That was Tuesday, and I still had one day left in Rome. What better thing to do than attend a Papal audience.  So that I did, Wednesday morning, along with about 12,000 others, but who’s counting!

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Arrivederci Roma once again. You never fail to amaze. Till next time.

Ciao,

Judy

Rome in Winter

10 Feb

Even if it happened every day, I hope I would still experience the same thrill that accompanies turning a corner and seeing Rome’s Coliseum.  An antiquity of enormous proportion and history, it rests comfortably within Rome’s modern world.

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as does its neighbor, the Roman Forum.

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Amidst the much-needed restoration, and the winter tourists, and after taking the requisite photos, I took time to sit on a wall and ponder just how these were built and what life was like so long ago. True marvels.

And then there are the churches of Rome. Each one is a museum, housing more art than many towns and cities around the world. One among many is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

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I came to Rome to visit Benita. What a perfect excuse to visit Italy for a week. While she was in class, my first day was filled with monuments, piazzas, and yes, walking in my grandfather’s footsteps. At the very end of Via Veneto, across from Harry’s Bar, is the Grande Hotel Flora, where he stayed for five nights in August of 1938. (More on his time there when I get to those letters.)  It is now owned by Marriott, and fortunately, they have been very attentive to the history and original detail of the hotel.

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I met Baiba, the Sales Manager, and she willingly showed me around the hotel as she listened to the story of Alex’s journey. She showed me some rooms and we wondered which he might have stayed in.

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One of the hotel’s best features is the rooftop lounge which provides a 360 panorama of Rome. Whether overlooking Borghese Gardens or steeples around Rome, the view is breathtaking. I promised Baiba that Len and I would come for a sunset drink next time in Rome.

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Other notables along my walk included Piazza di Spagna, where the fountain at the base of the steps is under major reconstruction.

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Nonetheless, the Spanish Steps are always one of my favorites and the place where fellow students and I met Dustin Hoffman many years ago. Really.

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Len, this is for you… The Ferrari Shop.

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Early evening, I waited at Piazza Cavour to meet Benita. What an amazing sunset, and so happy to be off my feet.

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We decided to start with apertivi, an Italian tradition.IMG_1456

And then took an evening stroll to the Vatican

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Castel Sant’ Angelo

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The PantheonIMG_1470

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And finally, an archeological dig.

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We walked to a favorite restaurant for dinner only to find it closed for remodeling, so we found another filled with locals. We ended the evening with gelato. Certo!

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The next day, Friday, while Benita was in class, I walked around Monte Mario, the town I had lived in as a student so long ago. Memories. Later at the hotel, I met the most amazing couple, Italian born and living in Basel, he a geneticist/researcher, both with incredible stories to tell.

photo

We literally spoke for hours, mostly in Italian, exchanged contact information, and might possibly meet in Cortona or Basel sometime. Giovanna, you would have been proud. I can’t tell you how helpful my Italian classes have been; and how very rewarding for me to be able to speak to people I might otherwise never have met.

That night, I took Benita and several of her friends to Navona Notte for dinner…a most enjoyable evening and very reminiscent of my time as a student in Rome.

photo - Version 2

After dinner, we parted company with the girls as Benita and I were staying in town that night. We wandered over to Piazza Navona and headed to a place near and dear to me, Tre Scalini, where my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary. Fortunately, they had brought their children/spouses along to join in the celebration. In honor of them, and my sibs, we ordered il tartufo! Just think chocolate…lots of it!

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Finally, we made our way to the Trevi, never to be overlooked if one wants to return to Rome.IMG_1489

With Benita’s long arms, we managed a selfie and I tossed a coin in the fountain. Benita had already tossed hers three weeks ago.

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Exhausted, in a very good way, we headed to our hotel near Termini, as we would leave for Cortona via train early the next morning. As we neared our hotel, Rome was nearly asleep.

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An incredible day!

Ciao,

Judy

Rome: More Then and Now

23 Jan

9° in Chicago – today’s high. Why not head to Rome where the temperature today reached a balmy 53° ? And to say nothing of seeing the eternal city with few crowds!

This picture is of me (left side), perhaps in January of 1972, in front of the Vatican. Sun shining, few people, and no snow! Pope Paul VI was in residence.

Judy at the Vatican, 71-72

Judy at the Vatican, 1972

This picture is of Benita, same study abroad program, some 40 years later! A clear evening, few people, and no snow! And of course, Pope Francis is in residence, though not the traditional one of his predecessors.

Although I took hundreds of slides while studying abroad, they are sitting in storage with few words or descriptions to jog my memory. Benita, on the other hand, has the opportunity to create a dynamic journal of her study abroad experience, both in words and pictures, and share it in real-time.  Just incredible!

To see some amazing photos of Rome at night in winter, like the one below,

http://romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com

romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com

or wherever her journey takes her, click http://romeisalwaysagoodidea.wordpress.com .

I agree, Benita, Rome is always a good idea!

What better excuse to travel…see you there soon!

Ciao,

Judy (Mom)

Habemus Papam!

13 Mar

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

the former “Father Jorge”

now Pope Francis I,

becomes the 266th pontiff.

"Habemus Papam" - Cardinal Jorge Mar...

“Habemus Papam” – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., has been elected Pope Francis I (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

Coat of Arms of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio

Coat of Arms of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Emblem of Vatican City Italiano: Embl...

English: Emblem of Vatican City Italiano:  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you probably know, the Papal conclave or election of a new pope takes place in the Sistine Chapel, which is kept locked during all voting. The word conclave, taken from the Latin clave or key,  actually means “a room that can be locked.” Such intense focus enables the cardinals to be free from other distractions.

When asked by a reporter what she thought of the excitement before Pope Francis I emerged on the balcony, a lady in the square responded, “The cardinals picked a pope in two days. In Italy, we still don’t have a president!” Maybe a conclave would help?

Benedizioni per il nuovo pontefice – blessings to the new pope!

Ciao,

Judy

Some Papal Facts and Legends

12 Feb

Benedict XVI (2005-present, Episcopal form of ...

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

By now, just about everyone knows that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of February. And although this is unusual, it is perfectly legal under Canon Law and not the first time a Pope has stepped aside. But here are a few other facts you might not know about Papal history:

Papal Nationalities:
While popes can hail from many countries, the majority, or 217 of them have been Italian. The next largest number, 17, comes from France. Rounding out the top five countries are Greece, with 13; Germany with 8, and Syria with 6. Several countries including Africa, Portugal, and Spain have at least two, followed by one each from Galilee, England, the Netherlands and Poland.

Youngest Pope:
In 955AD, at the age of 18, John XII  became the youngest pope. Although there seems to be a myth about Benedict IX being only 12 when he became pope, records set his actual age  at 20.

Fact or fiction?
Was there ever a female pope? According to legend from the 13th century,  John VIII, elected in 855, might have been a British woman posing as a man. “He” was embraced by the Church as a great teacher and ultimately became a bishop before ascending to the papal throne.  After two years, however, the legend says that “Pope Joan’s” secret was out when she gave birth while on horseback. Ultimately in disgrace, she was stoned or hung. Today, there exists no records of a female pope nor scholarly confirmation of her existence.

Papal Names:
It wasn’t until the sixth century that some popes adopted new names upon their election to the papacy. Choosing a new name wasn’t mandatory; rather, it signified whom a pope might want to honor and emulate. Later, the tradition became customary and every pope since the 16th century has done so. The most common names chosen by popes are John, Gregory, Benedict, Clement, Innocent, Leo and Pius. There has only been one Peter.

Ciao,

Judy

 

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