The Sicilians adore Pope Francis. This is not just because he once worked as a nightclub bouncer and is way more down-to-earth than any other pontiff in living memory.
He is the first pope ever to condemn the Mafia, repeatedly and unequivocally. He rejects the pomp and wealth of the traditional church and genuinely helps the poor. He repeatedly hits the headlines in Italy with his warmly welcomed comments that the Catholic church has focused too much on condemning abortion, contraception and gays while neglecting the need for mercy and compassion.
Francis does not let people kiss the papal ring on his little finger. This resonates deeply with all Sicilians. When my husband was a little boy, the Mafia bosses used to go out into the town square every Sunday and make the terrified and humiliated citizens kiss their own ring as a mark of “respect” and submission. It was a revolting parody of the church’s own outdated and humiliating ritual of greeting to God’s representative on earth.
For this winter 2013-2014, Sicilian fashion designer Domenico Dolce and his partner Stefano Gabbana paid tribute to the new pope. Apart from sending hordes of models down the catwalk dressed in cardinal red and ecclesiastical bling, they created dresses inspired by the Byzantine churches and chapels of Sicily.
Without further ado, let’s take a fashion tour. This model’s crown is like the medieval ones that I have seen in churches and museums around Sicily. Her dress is obviously a mosaic…
…like this one, of King Roger II, the first Norman King of Sicily. Notice his crown also looks rather like hers. All Sicily’s Byzantine churches date from the period of the Norman French, who took Sicily from the Moors.
This model not only has Roger’s crown; her dress shows a copy of the mosaic that he had on his bedroom walls, in his palace the Palazzo Dei Normanni in Palermo.
Gosh I wish I were filthy rich! And younger. And thinner.
Keeping the theme religious, the ladies looks so lovely they might be rather distracting for these trainee priests. What do you think?
Here’s another portrait of Roger, and some mosaics which remind me of the ones in the Cathedral of Cefalù. The gold tesserae in the mosaics in these early medieval churches are made of solid gold cubes, by the way. Thousands of them.
The model’s earrings also look like Medieval Sicilian ones. Despite all this wonderful Dark-Ages bling, you may notice that rings are notable for their absence. Don’t you think that might be quite symbolic?
This portrait of Jesus is from Monreale Cathedral near Palermo. It is famous for the fact that Jesus seems to be looking right at you, no matter where you stand in the church.
Although the Normans took Sicily from the African Arabs, they admired their culture so much that they copied almost every aspect of it. They started wearing Arab clothes, ate Arab food, kept their women in harems, and offered enough incentives to make the Arab architects stay and keep building in their own style.
This is why Monreale Cathedral look rather like a mosque. These columns in its courtyard are decorated with gold mosaics:
This model is wearing some angels from Monreale Cathedral.
This portrait of Jesus is from Cefalù Cathedral, a small and enchanting town on the north coast of Sicily which has a beautiful beach, fantastic night life and fascinating history all around you.
Let’s have a better look at those angels:
Now can you see them on her handbag?
I examined this bag covetously in the shop in Palermo, and it was encrusted with beads and jewels all sewn on by hand. I hadn’t realised how much I needed another handbag till I saw it!
The distraught lady in this picture is wearing a crucifix just like the Medieval ones often seen in Sicilian churches draped around statues of the Virgin Mary or various saints. Lots of them were left as offerings at the sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, at the top of Monte Pellegrino outside Palermo.
I have to say, if I owned one of these, I would be a lot happier than this young lady! I would be jumping for joy!