Sunday, October 21, 2007
Ghisallo Chapel, the Pope, and Wood
To live in Magreglio, Italy, as do the makers of Ghisallo wood rims, is to be constantly reminded of the close association of cycling and the Catholic Church. At the nearby summit lies the quaint chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo, chock full of cycling artifacts. This is the home of the patron saint of cycling.
If you visit this lovely, alpine area (50km north of Milan) stop by the chapel. If you're fortunate to meet the priest, ask about the Sanctuary Medallion. This quaint badge is meant to be fastened around a bicycle top tube (1" only) as a good luck charm. The medallion reads "The Madonna will protect you." The Madonna and child in the center are encircled by a chainring and chain. To either side are an inscription and an image of the Chapel. Since many of you did not pick up a medallion during your visit or not yet traveled there, I sell them on our eBay store.
The Medallion and Rims of the same Locale
Just across the green is Ghisallo's sparkling new cycling museum. All perched scenically above picturesque Lake Como. This is quite the spectacular temple to riding.
First floor view
Upper level view
In February of 2007, the Cermenati's imagined a wonderful way to combine their love of cycling with their faith, and offered an entirely wood bicycle to the Pope. The previous Pope, John Paul, was well known for his riding. He was reputed to disappear on his bicycle during his younger years and received a famous gold plated racing model from Ernesto Colnago. That stunning machine was received back from the Vatican by Ernesto after John Paul's death, and now resides in Colnago's museum.
The current Pope, Benedict, did not have an official bicycle as far as I know. He accepted the Cermenati's offer and agreed to receive the bike in early May. The wheels, for you fans of Ghisallo wood rims, are unfortunately not made of tensioned wire but are entirely of wood.
On May 2, a group of about 150 citizens of the Ghisallo area brought the bicycle with them to the Vatican in Rome and enjoyed an audience with Pope Benedict who gave a lesson on faith and sport.
Here are some scenes from that memorable afternoon.
Ex-professional champion, Claudio Chiappucci (right) with Giovanni Cermenati (in vest)
Pope Benedict on the left, Antonio Cermenati on the right