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Tuesday 18 May 2021

Health at the table The Popes at the table

The Popes at the table

Author of the content

The curiosity that pushes public opinion, and not, to know what the gastronomic habits of the popes are, has always been very lively. The first forty-nine Popes, in fact, from Saint Peter to Saint Gelasius I, who died on 21 November 496, all went down in history, by consolidated conviction and tradition, as saints and it can be thought that, even if not all martyrs, they must all have been pious and moderate, capable of controlling the capital vice
of the "throat".

The fact is that Charlemagne, expressly summoned by Pope Leo III to Rome, found a true princely court between the Lateran and the Vatican, where adequate cuisine could not be missing. The papal power, therefore, grew and with it the pomp of the Curia, even if the
Papal power risked several times sudden reversals with the election of rivals Antipapi and suitors supported by foreign powers, the cadet of France, of Charles of Anjou or of Aragon (Peter).

food artisans
(Pixabay.com)

Simone de Brion, elected on 22 February 1281 with the name of Martin IV, considered an inept, having resided for personal security reasons almost always in Orvieto, where he was also crowned, went down in history for a formidable eel taster of the nearby lake of Bolsena, drowned in Vernaccia. It is said that due to an abundance of eels, he died in Perugia on 26 March 1285 from gastroenteric complications.

It is legitimate to opine that the very concept of the Court, after the first heroic centuries, encouraged lavish manifestations of a religious nature but also more often of a gastronomic character (eg San Gregorio I Magno 590-604). It is to be believed that the papal court in France was not moderated: as a tourist, it is enough to observe the current castle-residence of the Popes, which with Clement VI (1942-1352) assumes the appearance of a fortified palace. Who would have given
a penny for the monastic lifestyle of the Papal Court, supported by the King of France in the most prosperous region of that Kingdom the most refined and most joyful world?

Clement V, John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V and Gregory XI (from 1305 to 1378) were all French Popes and it is legitimate to suspect that they were "happy" Popes, even at the table. It did not go better in the Renaissance. What could be expected from an Alexander VI Borgia, who had the dishes cooked by his daughter Lucrezia, elected for these tasks, or by Pope Leo X Medici who introduced Tuscan delicacies to Rome?

The Popes of the Baroque period certainly did not shine for their mildness as a whole and it is perhaps for this reason that the fame of luxury and pleasure, penitential canteens, moreover on the wave of a consolidated nepotism. In fact, all the families who had given a Pope to the Church, and were not generally poor, had palaces like the Farnese one built, with their Rome the Tuscan delicacies? Farnesine, Pamphilj, Odescalchi, Doria and Braschi, to name a few.

A court as Pope-king (Pius VII, Leo XII, Pius VIII, Gregory XIV and above all Pius IX, even if mocked by the popular vate Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, who collected the moods of the petite people) will not have been penitential. Indeed, Pius IX himself, although a victim of the Risorgimento, was inclined to sniff tobacco and perhaps to taste the good Bordeaux sent to him by Napoleon III.

Pius X, angelic and gentle, like a good father of a Venetian family, died early of a broken heart at the outbreak of the first great war. Certainly he did not lack the sensitivity for the new times, like his predecessor. Benedict XV followed in his footsteps by fighting for peace. Already these last three Popes did not give rise to culinary criticisms that went beyond a good cabbage soup and a meatloaf with salad, with the license of a glass of
Red wine.

Pius XI began a new era: the Vatican with the help of the Lateran Pacts could revive its exhausted coffers with the Holy Year of the Redemption (1988), but above all it became an international juridical person, the smallest state in the world, a real State, with territory, diplomatic relations, cars, stamps and public finance. Pius XI even had a radio to communicate with the whole world, which, having been curated by Guglielmo Marconi himself, represented for those times the "non plus ultra" in terms of technology. Pius XI was a tempered man, even if he smoked the Tuscan cigar, and did not talk much about himself in relation to the table. Fasting seasoned with spiritual exercises would have done the Pope good.

Pius XII, a personality troubled by his ideas and circumstances, was welcomed by the Romans as a blessing, precisely because Roman: it was from the time of Julius III that a Roman bishop was not elected for Rome; and the previous one had not made a great impression. Certainly he did not show off to be a guest who went beyond the soup in broth and mozzarella. Something more appetizing glided on the table of John XXIII, even if its peasant origin led only to tasty but simple dishes, with some indulgence for oriental specialties, having made the Apostolic Nuncio in Istanbul: not even a few glasses of wine would be missing red.

Paul VI takes us back to hospital diets, as for Pius XII and Leo XIII. John Paul I lived too little, as Pope, to be judged at the table.

John Paul II, on the other hand, was Pope at the center and painted the whole earth with Polish. also his kitchen, therefore, did not fail to speak Polish. It is reasonable to think that Pope Bergoglio also suggested to the kitchen that imprint of Franciscan sobriety that made it known to the whole Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu world, but also to the atheist one. Hurray. An extraordinary chronicler Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli recorded the subdued voice of the Roman people on the Pope's food habits.

The cushions of the pope

With the thing that c'er c'è mcompare
vvorzuto has made me vvéde stammatina
the most holy cushion. Cuscinà?
What a pillow! You have a seaport.

Batteries, pots, pans, callare,
cossciotti de vitella and de vaccina,
chickens, eggs, milk, pessce, herbs, porcina,
hunting, it is a rare fate.

I say: "Pròsite a llei, sor Padre Santo".
Disce: «Besides, you have not seen the disparity,
that de grazzia de Ddio comes out in the same way ».

I say: «Eh, sorry, poor fijjolo !,
but what about lunch with the Eminence? "
«Noo», he says, «er Papa always grows alone».

March 25






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