Tag Archives: 17th Century

Various demands of Pope Urban VIII, 1623-1644

“I would like a retraction of your comment that my beard is unmasculine as well”

While we in the modern world condemn Pope Urban VIII and the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo, it is not commonly known that the Church at this time demanded all sorts of retractions from people and organizations. What follows is but a small sample of the History of the Letter collection of 17th century papal letters, with brief scholarly comments.

Dear Mr. Buongilli,

His Holiness demands you retract your claim that “the papal vestments will not be ready until Tuesday.” As it is written in Eccl. 12:2-4, “let he who is without dry-cleaning facilities send his robes out, that they may be returned promptly un-bestained.” The Holy Father explicitly asked for the robes to be ready for his Monday blessing at Fr. Angelioni’s sacramental dice game. The wine stain was not that bad.

Yours,

Fr. Dominic Vettori, Papal Grievance Coordinator

Here, we see an early example of the papal retraction request. After about a year in office, this letter was standardized, and was given to business owners, citizens, and particularly noisy dogs much as we hand out traffic tickets today. The wine stain was worse than the Pope let on, and though Mr. Buongilli worked his hardest, it was never fully removed. The dry cleaner spent 15 years in a dungeon for his crime.

Dear  Mario Gardenza_,

His Holiness demands you retract your claim that   Luigi’s Ristorante has the best Zuppa di Vongole in Rome  . The Holy Father feels that this is in error, and that according to _Ephesians 13:51-53  , “the best soup of all kinds can be found at Maria’s on the Via Santi.” Please note that violations of this scripture entails up to  50  years in prison and up to  7000  years in purgatory. The Church appreciates your cooperation in this matter.

Yours,

Fr. Dominic Vettori, Papal Grievance Coordinator

Pope Urban VIII was one of the first “foodies” to become Pope. He spent hours tasting and comparing meals from various restaurants and chefs, bestowing high-ranking church positions on those dishes he deemed the most delicious (a particularly savory meatball parmagiana sandwich served 21 years as papal secretary). Still, the church had no official policy on food until Urban’s successor, Innocent X, completed “De Profundiis Zagat,” detailing not only the best restaurants in Italy, but also the holiest way to prepare Easter ham.

Dear Annoymous Graffiti Writer in the Men’s Room at St. Peter’s  ,

His Holiness demands you retract your claim that  the Pope’s hat is stupid and ugly and pointless . The Holy Father feels this is in error, and that according to   Paul’s Letter to the Handsome Turkish Gentlemen 2:9-11 , “There are but two laws to which a follower of Christ must adhere: first, he must accept the sacred mystery of the Holy Trinity, and second, let he who has the biggest hat rule over them all.” Please note that violations of this scripture entails up to   140  years in prison and up to  eternal damnation    years in purgatory. The Church appreciates your cooperation in this matter.

Yours,

Fr. Dominic Vettori, Papal Grievance Coordinator

Though Paul’s Letter to the Handsome Turkish Gentleman was never actually official church canon, it was informally accepted by the Church for nearly 1500 years, until English researchers in the early 19th century discovered the concept of homoeroticism. After the discovery, the church quietly removed references to the letter from most of their documents, wondering openly how they missed the mark so badly when phrases like “rakish handsomeness is not a sin” and “Jesus never explicitly said anything about nude wrestling” were peppered throughout. The entire situation was subtly yet scathingly mocked in one of Downton Abbey’s first season plotlines.

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