Pantelleria, the Sicilian volcanic island that is closer to Tunisia than it is to Italy, has a new church and the bishop of the diocese has new vestments, courtesy of Giorgio Armani. The Milan-based designer has had a vacation house on Pantelleria for close to 40 years and obliged Monsignor Domenico Mogavero’s request for the design and donation of vestments.
In response to critics questioning the luxurious nature of Armani vestments, Bishop Mogavero said, “It isn’t a question of worldliness, but a way of involving a creator of fashion, who loves Pantelleria, and it’s a way of valuing his originality and sense of beauty in the service of mass, and therefore of God.”
Bishop Mogavero presides over the diocese of Mazara del Vallo, a port city of Sicily connected to Pantelleria by ferry. Last week the bishop officiated at the blessing of the Pantelleria church’s new forecourt and wore one of the four sets of vestments designed by Armani. Ensembles were created in each of the liturgically important colors of white, red, green, and violet.
Because of the relevance of the sea to the diocese, the vestments are embroidered with sea life such starfish, scallops and seaweed. What will most interest readers of Olive Oil Times, however, are the olives on the mitre. The sprays of olive branches with fruit are embroidered in golden thread. One spray stands vertically at the center of the mitre and two others are placed horizontally at the band of the headpiece.
Olive trees and olive oil are highly significant in Catholicism. The name Christ comes from Greek word meaning anoint, and the oil used in church services is known as chrism. It is a mixture of olive oil and scent, usually balsam. The olive oil mixture is used from the sacrament of Baptism to the final sacrament of Extreme Unction. Church bishops on Holy Thursday, a day in Lent, consecrate chrism, and this makes the Armani mitre iconography especially fitting.
Pantelleria is a wind swept island and the olives, mostly the biancolilla cultivar, are bent low from the constant pounding of the wind. Biancolilla refers to the color–white purple. The olive oil is mostly extracted in September and tastes of tomato and artichoke. Pantelleria olive growers formed a cooperative in 2006, the Consorzio olivicoltori di Pantelleria. Their site says that a classic biancolilla olive tree is not over a meter in height, but can “crawl” outward an amazing 100 meters. The wind is most injurious in the spring when the trees flower and attempt to set fruit. Unsurprisingly, the cultivar is known as a good pollinator.
Giorgio Armani uses olives in the men’s scent called Armani Code Summer. In addition to olive leaves, it’s made with bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, neroli, rose, tarragon, cedar, amber and other ingredients. Sicily is famous for its citrus, and just maybe the inspiration for the scent came from Armani’s summerhouse in Pantelleria.