Benedict’s Bees

Some consider Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to be the “thinking man’s Pope”. A theologian and scholar by training he wrote three encyclicals, many apostolic letters, two popular books about the historical Jesus and numerous other publications; a Pope as industrious and prolific as his bees.

In September 2011 eight beehives containing more than 500,000 bees were given to then Pope Benedict by the Italian agricultural organization ‘Coldiretti’ to celebrate the Day for the Protection of Creation. The group promotes agricultural education and lobbies to protect agricultural land and encourage farm-friendly policies. Tbee closeuphe half million bees were transported to the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo and were expected to produce more than 600 pounds of organic wildflower honey each year pollinating the orchards and flowers of the pontifical farm that is also the home to 25 dairy cows and an assortment of hens and roosters.Baldacchino-bees


Bees have always found favor with the fathers of the Church. St. John Chrysostom explains that the bee is more honored than other animals, “not because it labors, but because it labors for others”. Pope Pius XII called them “fascinating little creatures of God” writing that there can be many lessons drawn from the “holy wisdom in these tiny humming insects”. Urban VIII, a 17th century Pope whose family coat of arms featured three bees, was particularly partial to l’ape. We might go so far as to designate him their papal patron. Bees seem to have found so much favor with him that there are architectural monuments all over Rome  swarming with bees including St. Peter’s Basilica where bees can be found decorating the baldachin altar.

Umbrian Linens: The Allure of Ancient Patterns and Evocative Colors

tablescape and linensThe tablescapes of the Italian tavola can be as rustic as a rural casa colonica or a refined as a Renaissance villa. Known for both functionality and beauty the evocative colors of Umbrian linens reflect the beauty of the Italian landscape, the allure of ancient patterns and the skill of the weaver. montefalco_vignaThe palette of colors used to create the designs are symbols of the cultural life of Umbria. Green for the olive groves, pink and cream the colors of the stones of the cities, garnet symbolizes the local wines, Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino; russet, yellow and marrone, the fields of wheat and tobacco and cielo, the color of the blue sky.

The designs themselves are classic patterns from the Middle Ages and Renaissance; scrolls, leaves, flowers, amphora jugs. Ornate and stylized patters and mythological characters like the griffin (symbol of Perugia, the capital of the region) were influenced by eastern designs from China when 17th century Italian potters began copying Chinese ceramics. The api pattern (bee in Italian), said to bring luck and good fortune, was a symbol of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (later elected as Pope Urban VIII) who had been the Bishop of Spoleto from 1608-17. Three bees were his coat of arms and can be followed all the way to Rome.

Ninfea%20Rustica           api umbrian linens