Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father’s secret vice

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Cars as the Holy Father‘s secret vice

Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father's secret vice-vatican

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Pius XI. personally received his Mercedes-Benz Nurburg 460 in the Vatican in July 1930.

Source: Daimler

Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father's secret vice-cars

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On December 17, 1960, Mercedes boss Fritz Konecke hands over a Mercedes-Benz type 300 d Landaulet in an extended special version to Pope Johannes XXIII.

Source: Daimler

Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father's secret vice-cars

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Pope Pius XI sat in his Mercedes like on a throne.

Source: Daimler

Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father's secret vice-secret

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Pope Paul VI (in the middle of the car) on the move in his Pullman landaulet. The picture was taken in 1965.

Source: Daimler

Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father's secret vice-cars

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On the display next to the gear lever, the Pope’s commands arrive as a light signal for the driver. So the Pope did not have to speak to his driver to communicate his wishesen.

Source: Daimler

Vatican: Cars as the Holy Father's secret vice-cars

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The Pope used this signaling system from 1930 to direct the journey in the desired direction.

Source: Daimler

A 75-year-old clergyman guards the Vatican‘s most valuable vehicles. And he knows the secret signals between popes and chauffeurs

S.e since John Paul II had a G-Class built with a glass case on the loading area, it has been known that the Pope drives Mercedes. The name for this car has also got around, it is the Popemobile. But all the backgrounds are only known to Monsignor Pietro Amato. He is the custodian of a collection that is not the most important in the Vatican Museums – but the most moving.

"Come on, we have to go down to our three-aisled cathedral." Pietro Amato smiles happily and walks ahead. His step downstairs is measured, but his straight posture makes him look younger than 75 years. At the moment, in any case, he has a downright youthful pleasure in showing his treasures.

Carriage pavilion is under the lawn

The Padiglione delle Carrozze (which sounds nicer than a carriage pavilion), located under a lawn, is part of the Museo Storico Vaticano. Amato is its director, and all he wants is for the Padiglione to become its own Museo della Mobilita Papale, a museum devoted solely to the mobility of the Holy Father.

It began a good 80 years ago. The so-called Roman question was open until 1929, and that meant: Since 1870, after the dissolution of the papal state and the establishment of the Italian national state, the popes did not leave their 44-hectare area, which was surrounded by strong walls, in protest.

That changed in 1929 with the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty, when Pius XI. Rome recognized as the capital of Italy and in return Mussolini granted Vatican City the status of its own sovereign territory.

Various cars were given to the Pope

"Since that year, which also coincided with the 50th year of his ordination, the pontiff has been given a wide variety of automobiles," says Monsignor Amato. Mercedes was one of the first donors with the Nurburg 460 type, plus an American Graham-Paige 837, today only known to experts; a Fiat 525 M arrived, an Isotta Fraschini 8A and a Citroën C6 Lictoria Sex, a gift from Benito Mussolini himself.

But the Citroën Pius didn’t like it, which might have something to do with the person who donated it. The Holy Father only sat in the car twice, says Amato: when it was given to him and seven years later when driving to an exhibition opening. This rare car has only 159 kilometers on the clock.

Test drive through the Vatican Garden

Pius XI was enthusiastic. on the other hand from his Mercedes. Immediately after it was handed over, he drove the limousine that had been specially converted for him to the test – an hour through the Vatican Gardens. When he got out again, the Pope spoke of a "masterpiece of engineering".

These little stories that Amato can tell tell of the attraction of the automobile that far exceeded the ordinary. Pius ’direct predecessors, however, had little interest in cars. They had no real idea of ​​the real world in this regard.

But the highly learned Pius XI, real name Achille Ratti, loved new technologies of all kinds. He had recognized the possibilities of the new means of transport and was enthusiastic about them, even the small details. He followed a wheel change on the Graham-Paige, which was necessary in 1934 on the occasion of a trip to the summer residence in Castelgandolfo, with great interest.

Pius VII was the first to use a vehicle

A school class enters the museum, it gets loud in the 100 meter long hall, not far from the Sistine Chapel. That doesn’t bother Amato, these are not sacred halls, even if he himself always appears quietly. The children leave quickly, the exhibition probably doesn’t quite show what they expected.

Essentially, carriages, sedan chairs and saddles can be seen – after all, far more popes in history did not own an automobile. Pius VII, whose pontificate lasted from 1800 to 1823, was the first to ever use a vehicle. When he was no longer on the back of a horse for a procession, but in a carriage, it was like a revolution in progress.

Mercedes provides most of the vehicles

Pius XI. In any case, he covered more than 27,000 kilometers in the Graham-Paige and in his Mercedes he even managed 40,000. His successor Pius XII. expanded the relationship with Daimler, with which the idea of ​​Robert Katzenstein, advertising strategist in the service of the Mercedes-Benz brand in 1929, led to a lasting relationship: the Popes still drive Mercedes today. Not exclusively, but most often the brand with the star is visible.

No other company provided so many carriages for the popes and built so many custom-made items: The historical papamobiles were all lengthened so that a large armchair could fit into the back room. There were also S-Class models or the early 600 as a landaulet – with a roof that remained closed at the front but could be opened at the rear. And everything, says Pietro Amato, because of Pius XII’s health problems. "He had a back problem, which is probably why he always held himself up like this."

Pope gives instructions about buttons

The hierarchy is also evident in the car. The Pope didn’t have to speak to his chauffeur – it would have been difficult because he was sitting so far back and because the cars made a lot of noise at the time. So the manufacturers installed a special signaling system for the passenger in the famous first Mercedes. At the back there is a keyboard, similar to a doorbell system on the door of an apartment building. Instead of family names, the words "avanti, indietro, adagio, forte, destra, sinistra, ferma, Vaticano" are to be read, and that means: forwards, backwards, slowly, quickly, right, left, stop, to the Vatican.

In the Mercedes it says “sinistra, destra, presto, adagio, volta, casa, old” – left, right, fast, slow, turn around, home, stop. The chauffeur received these commands as a light signal on the dashboard and then obeyed.

To important meetings in the Vatican

Just like Amato does. He doesn’t think about the pension, he doesn’t have to decide when to retire. “You stay until the Pope dismisses you.” Amato puts on his coat, puts on his hat, and suddenly he no longer looks like a clergyman.

He is also not sad to leave the Vatican again, even if everyone who meets him here knows and greets him. Most of his museum is located in the Lateran Palace, the official seat of the Pope as a Roman bishop. "I only come to important meetings in the Vatican," says Amato. “Otherwise I prefer to stay invisible.” But he still wants to fight for his new and better mobility museum.

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