For five generations, the Gammarellis have dressed and shod the Vicar of Christ through their family business, Rome’s historic Ditta Annibale Gammarelli, located on the city’s Via di Santa Chiara near the Pantheon.
Now, after the recent death of manager Annibale Gammeralli, the business will pass to the hands of a sixth generation.
Established in 1798 by Giovanni Antonio Gammarelli, the “Ditta” was founded under Pius VI as a tailor for the Roman clergy. After Giovanni died, management of the shop passed to his son Filippo, and then to Filippo’s son Annibale.
In 1874 Annibale moved the shop from its original location to its current spot just steps away from the Pantheon. It’s located inside the same building as the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the prestigious institute that forms future Vatican diplomats.
When Annibale died, his sons Bonaventura and Giuseppe decided to keep the name “Ditta Annibale Gammarelli” as an homage to their father – a name that has since become known to clergy throughout Italy and the world.
In an additional act of homage, Bonaventura decided to name his own son after his father: making the late Annibale Gammarelli the second to carry the name of the family business and to carry it forward.
Annibale passed away July 12 in Rome after a long career managing the sartorial workshop, leaving it in the care of his son Stefano Paolo and his nephews Maximillian and Lorenzo, who are the sixth generation to sew garments for the Pope.
During each conclave the Gammerellis are charged with making three white cassocks in different sizes – small, medium and large – which sit ready and waiting for the new Successor of Peter.
And though Francis doesn’t use it, the white cassocks are always accompanied by the red mozzetta (the papal half-cape of choir dress that buttons in the front and covers the shoulders), as well as the white pellegrina (the buttonless white shoulder cape worn with a cassock and open in front), the white fascia (the waistband typically embroidered with the papal coat of arms, though Francis opted out of this), and the white zucchetto (or skullcap).
As a footnote, popes typically change cassocks more or less every two months, since the silver cross they wear oxidizes, leaving a stain on the white fabric.
In 2000 the Ditta Annnibale Gammarelli was added to the list of historic shops in the city of Rome, and is likely the oldest shop to still be managed by the direct descendants of its founder.
The shop has served thousands of priests and hundreds of bishops and cardinals, and sewn garments for the Roman Pontiffs since Blessed Pius IX, who was elected Bishop of Rome in 1846.
Photos of the past nine popes decorate the walls inside the workshop, which will continue to dress popes under the guidance of yet another generation of Gammarellis.