Cramped Ideas in the Head

Nino Lo Bello, The Vatican Empire, “Behind the Walls III:”

The visitor to the Vatican is not likely to see the relic mailer at work, but no matter where he goes inside the narrow plot of land, he is likely to come across someone busily doing an unexpectedly ordinary job. The Pope’s shoemaker, for example. Since 1939, the task of making papal shoes has belonged to Telesforo Carboni, who habitually refers to Paul VI as “an eight and a half narrow” and the late Pope John as “a wide ten.”

Like many other shoemakers, Carboni is quite a raconteur, particularly on the matter of footwear. Once Carboni said to me, “I remember the time Pope John, who had a big foot, which could take even a ten and a half, came to me and said, ‘Signor Carboni, you must make me a pair of shoes that are nice and big and don’t cramp my feet.’

“A man with cramped feet, you know, will usually have cramped ideas in his head, and so His Holiness wanted a pair of shoes that wouldn’t cramp him in his work. Do you follow?

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