In a warehouse just outside Toronto, furniture makers are putting the finishing touches on historic pieces that will be part of Pope Francis’ trip to Canada.
Using maple and oak wood, the designers bring to life sketches put on paper a month ago.
The end products are eight chairs measuring approximately 55 centimeters high – about eight centimeters taller than an ordinary dining chair – adorned with white upholstery and a carved wooden crown depicting a swirling image of eagles, of salmon and a herd of caribou.
The chairs are for the pontiff to use during each of the eight public programs he is scheduled to attend during his Canadian tour, which begins Sunday and ends July 29 with stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut.
Quality and Company, a custom furniture manufacturer based in Maple, Ontario, was commissioned to manufacture the unique pieces.
“We mobilized all of our resources here to make this happen…everyone was on deck,” company president Frank Caruso said.
Nearly 30 people, from designers to sculptors to upholsterers, worked hundreds of hours to bring the chairs to their final destination.
In the end, the team built two different designs for the chairs using specifications provided by the Vatican to address the pope’s mobility issues. The designers used four different dyes and six different fabric and embroidery designs. He also worked with Métis graphic designer Shaun Vincent to incorporate a logo he designed for the papal visit, which depicts animals moving in a circle.
“These pieces will become heritage pieces to display wherever these events take place. It was very important that each chair had a unique touch or feel,” says Rafael Studart, senior designer at Quality and Company.
Studart says the team drew inspiration from the architecture of cathedrals and churches. The chairs themselves have simple shapes and arches to reflect this.
Each item also has a subtle and unique embroidery design, he added.
“It makes sense that the chair is simple, but not simplistic, in the sense that it was meant to be. It was necessary to convey the importance of the moment without dominating the main objective, namely the process of healing and reconciliation”, explains Studart.
The theme of the papal visit is “Walking Together”. It should include public and private events emphasizing Aboriginal participation. The pontiff is expected to deliver an apology at the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis, Alberta. — expanding on the apology he made to Indigenous delegates at the Vatican in April.
Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann, who is responsible for scheduling the papal visit, said it was important to keep the chairs simple and not detract from the message of the visit.
“It’s not about opulence,” he said.
“Chairs will be successful if they go unnoticed.”
This is not the first time that chairs have been built for a papal visit. Some were made for the pope’s previous visits to Sri Lanka, the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“It’s something that started to happen organically. Because it’s an easy gesture of something that can be done not only as a gift to the Pope, but also as a legacy that would stay where it is. where the Pope goes”, explains Guevara Mann.
Guevara Mann says each chair will likely stay where it is used or near it. The chair used during a mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton scheduled for next Tuesday is to be sent later to the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
The cost of each chair is between $6,000 and $7,000. The company covered 90% of the costs.
“This is such an important event in the country’s history that it’s quite an honor to be a part of it in one way or another,” says Studart.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 20, 2022.
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