Why is it silver? Why did it look like iron? Who designed it?
The first time I laid eyes on Pope Francis’ pectoral cross, I remember thinking it was unlike anything else I had ever seen. When the first shipment of crosses arrived at our office, I noted a few different things… the detail, the signature on the back… and the hologram seal?
Turns out, the cross design is copyrighted and the seal makes sure my customers are getting the real deal. But there is so much more behind that story.
The design for cross was carefully drawn out by the hand of Antonio Vedele, an Italian artisan. But he never saw the finished product of his creation. Instead, when Vedele retired he gave the drawing to his friend, Giuseppe Albrizzi. Vedele told his friend “This is a pectoral cross. I have called it, ‘The Good Shepherd Cross’. Here, you can have it. Give it flesh and you’ll see that people will like it!” (source).
However, Vedele never lived to see his design come to life as he died shortly after.
In memory of his friend, Albrizzi crafted the mold and selected silver as his material of choice. Silver is seen as a more humble metal than gold, and Albrizzi thought a bishop or other clergy would buy it if it was affordable.
The cross was then sold to Raniero Mancinelli who had a religious good store close to St. Peter’s Square.
One day, in the Spring of 1998, a South-American priest walked into that shop, saw that pectoral cross, and decided to buy it. The priest told Mancinelli that he needed a present for a friend of his that had just been nominated Archbishop of Buenos Aires. This was, in fact, the then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio. (source)
Why did people think it was iron?
When Pope Francis stepped out onto the balcony as pope for the first time, observers though his pectoral cross, the same one he had worn since 1998 as an Archbishop, was made of iron because of the dark color.
The color, however, was attributed the fact that Pope Francis used his cross as much more than an ornament. Before he was pope, Jorge Bergoglio worked with the poor in the slums of Buenos Aires. The Good Shepherd Cross had come in contact with countless hands, tears and kisses. The archbishop himself often grasped the cross as he prayed to have the heavy burdens of the poor lifted.
The silver certainly came by its dark, tarnished color honestly.
Hope this enlightened you at least a little bit! Have a blessed day.