Published: April 17, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI's ruby red shoes are drawing plenty of attention as he visits Washington, D.C. The handmade loafers, crafted for Benedict by an Italian shoemaker, are seen as a statement of his desire to demonstrate continuity with the symbols and history of the church.
Although Pope John Paul II often wore brown shoes, other pontiffs have also worn red shoes. Benedict's shoes, which stand out against his spotless white robes, also serve as a reminder of the many years he wore the red cloth of a cardinal.
Lawrence Cunningham, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, offers more insights on why the pontiff favors the color in a conversation with Michele Norris. [Copyright 2013 NPR]
: When you see pictures of Pope Benedict this week, this stands out - those bright red shoes. They're not fire engine red but rich ruby red. Some in Washington might say, gnats red, and they really standout against his spotless white robes. We wondered, what's up with the pope's red leather shoes?
LAWRENCE CUNNINGHAM: I'm Lawrence Cunningham, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, considered by some to be the master of Catholic trivia.
: The master of Catholic trivia told us that Pope Benedict is a cat lover who practices piano at the end of the day. But let's get back to that red.
CUNNINGHAM: Traditionally in the Catholic Church, the color red commemorates the blood of martyrdom, the shedding of blood. And it's worn during Pentecost season in liturgical vestments symbolizing the tongues of fire described at the Acts of the Apostles. And so fire and red are identified with the Holy Spirit.
: But Cunningham says Pope Benedict's choice of red shoes may be just a holdover from his days as a cardinal. Cardinal's wear red and many previous popes chose to wear red shoes, but not the last one. Pope John Paul II preferred unassuming brown shoes. So Benedict's shoes and his other sartorial choices stand out. During mass, he favors very ornate garments and tall miters, echoes of past centuries. Lawrence Cunningham.
CUNNINGHAM: Pope Benedict has said that he is a strong believer in continuity. What he wants to do is to reflect in many, many different ways - dress being a minor way - that he links himself to previous popes and previous fashions worn by popes. This is a man who does not favor the notion of rupture in the church.
: Back to the pope's shoes, they're European size 42, that's an 8 and a half state side. And while devil wears Prada, the pope does not. Benedict's red leather shoes are handmade by one Adriano Stefanelli, a shoemaker in Northern Italy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.