Rome

Tavani family boasts three generations of papal artisans

From Pius X to Benedict XVI, goldsmiths keep pontiffs regal

Tavani family boasts three generations of papal artisans

(By Emanuela De Crescenzo) Rome, February 26 - The restored bronze bed with gold-plated canopy, where Benedict XVI slept during his stays at Castel Gandolfo, and the moving platform, with its bronze handrail, used by John Paul II to say his sermons at the end of his papacy, are just two of the creations by 68-year-old Italian artisan Aldo Tavani, who specializes in gold, silver and bronze. For three generations his family, which began with commissions for Pope Pius X, has been offering its services to the papacy. His workshop is located in the heart of Rome, a few steps from the very central Piazza Navona. For two years his firm worked on the restoration of the Bronze Gate (Portone di Bronzo) of the Palazzo Apostolico, originally built in the 1600s and which is located under the colonnade in Saint Peter's Square. "The job took a long time and was difficult," Tavani says. "The gate was inaugurated in 2007 by Benedict, who in that occasion complimented us for our work". The second time the artisan met Benedict was when a group of nuns donated to the pope a monstrance, made by Tavani, which was decorated with wheat and grape symbols. Tavani had more frequent encounters with John Paul. "We met some five or six times, the first when I repaired a metal chest of drawers which contained the pope's collection of medals," recalls the artisan. "The last time was when he said the mass to Divine Love. Every time I came, he would say: 'I know you well'". Tavani also made many of the gifts Benedict brought on his travels abroad. "In 2009, we made the hanging lamp in silver, with three chains, which the pope donated to the Sanctuary of the Nativity in Nazareth," Tavani recalls. "From the lamp's design to its production it took 90 days. In 2009 Benedict donated a gold-plated silver crown, with semi-precious stones, made by us, to the Bambinello in Prague, which was delivered during his trip to the Czech Republic. "In 2010, maintaining what is a time-honored tradition dating back to the 1500s, the pope brought as a gift to the Sanctuary of Fatima the golden rose with a rosary, always made by us, while in 2012 the golden rose was donated by the pope to the Madonna of Coimbra in Cuba". Obviously, Tavani points out, all the works are unique in their kind. "During the papacy of John Paul, we made about 30 gold roses and we made eight during Benedict's". The Tavani workshop is also specialized in other papal regalia, including the crosses and rings worn by cardinals and bishops, as well as other, very important pieces Tavani has been creating for decades: the papal coat of arms, in silver, which are applied to the gifts given by the pope. "I made about 300 for John Paul and about 50 for Benedict," Tavani says. "They are bass-reliefs and it takes about 20 days to complete them. "For Pope Luciani (John Paul I) I had just finished his coat of arms, but he died before we could deliver it. Even for the new pope, the delivery will take place within 20 days of his election". If you ask Tavani his opinion on who the new pope will be, he replies: "My predictions have always been wrong, but I think a Central or South American has a strong chance". "I strongly believe, however, in the old saying: 'He who enters the conclave as a pope, leaves as a cardinal," Tavani says smiling.

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