Friday, July 11, 2014

This just in

Our new artifact.
CLEARING OUT SOME CLOSETS in the Doheny Mansion basement, we came across a sort of papal reliquary, complete with a skullcap once worn by Pope Pius XI.

While he occupied the Chair of St. Peter (1922-1939), Pius XI would have been well aware of an oilman and his wife in Los Angeles, Edward L. and Estelle Doheny. Throughout their lives, the Dohenys were important donors to the Catholic Church both in Los Angeles and in Rome.

Pius XI in white zuchetto.
There's no provenance with the cap, which is part of a framed, handwritten apostolic blessing for the Dohenys, but it's safe to assume it was presented to them in gratitude for their generosity.

The cap is known as a zuchetto, meaning "little pumpkin" in Italian, the top half of which it slightly resembles. The papal version is made of white moiré, or watered silk, and lined with velvety white kid leather. Unlike a Jewish yarmulke, zuchettos have no religious significance and probably originated to keep clerics' heads warm in drafty churches and palaces.

There's more to archives than paper. Our zuchetto will enjoy pride of place alongside our 1938 MSMC gown and mortarboard, the 1867 U.S. flag, a 1950 MSMC nurse's uniform, Estelle Doheny's delicately embroidered bed coverlets, a lace tablecloth from Le Puy, Rosie's blob of cement, Sister Louise Bernstein's 1951 ASB gavel, an MSMC beer mug...

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