When Pope Francis visited New York last week, he was presented with a one-foot-tall Gothic chalice made from small silver items donated by 850 ordinary Americans.
Back in March, Argentinian silversmith Adrian Pallarols, a long-time friend of the pope, had made a plea in a Time magazine interview for donations of modest silver items that would be melted down and ultimately transformed into a cherished memento of Pope Francis' historic visit to the U.S.
“Everybody, the whole country, will be in the prayers of Pope Francis here in New York when he lifts the chalice in the consecration,” Pallarols told Time magazine. “Everybody can be in his hands for the prayers.”
Soon after the story was published, silver donations came pouring in. In total, Pallarols received 850 individual donations for a total of 16.1 pounds. The artist's work required about 3.3 pounds of precious metal. The excess was sold, with the proceeds going to the Pope’s efforts to assist the poor in the U.S.
“We received rings, chains, pendants, earrings, bracelets and broken pieces of silver,” Pallarols told americamedia.org. "This chalice was made in the name of the humblest people, who probably never will have the chance to meet the Holy Father or touch his hands. All this was made in their name.”
At his workshop in Buenos Aires, Pallarols designed a chalice rich with symbols and elements that made it distinctly American. The chalice features red, white, and blue jewels, a gold-plated map of the United States, and an intricate pillar-motif inspired by the architecture of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Red, white and blue precious stones — rubies, crystals and sapphires — were set into the cup of the chalice, representing the colors of the United States flag.
Pallarols placed a gold-plated map of the United States at the center of the node, so when the pope put his hand around it, he symbolically embraced all the people of the U.S.
The Gothic-style pillars of New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral provided additional inspiration for the artist. The chalice includes 12 such pillars, which represent the 12 apostles.
On the base of the chalice are the engraved flags of the United States and the Holy See. The flags flying together represent the union between the people of the U.S. and the papacy.
The hand-crafted chalice comprised 85 pieces that were either soldered or screwed together.
The Pallarols family has been designing extraordinary silver items for dignitaries and heads of state since the mid-1700s.
The family also has close ties with Pope Francis. When the Pope was still known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he presided over Adrian Pallarols’ wedding. He later baptized Pallarols’ daughter and frequently visited the artisan’s shop to chat about art and music, according to Time magazine.
Images: Screen captures via YouTube/Adrian Pallarols, CBS NewYork; Twitter/Pontifex