Religious Supplies

June 11, 2012 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio
You realize you had never really thought about it. If you had, you might have hypothesized that they had some central warehouse/distribution center at the Vatican. Walking down Via dei Cestari however (a small pedestrian street right behind the Pantheon), offers the definitive answer . . . with 427 churches in Rome and the main Jewish temple close by, of course they have religious supply stores! Where else will the nuns and priests, rabbis, cardinals and bishops get their liturgical robes, their daily wear of all types, reliquaries, all three kinds of mitres!, crooks, large votive candles, communion cups and sets, cardinal’s rings, menorahs too, and again bibles of all sizes, more or less decorated, crucifixes, rosaries, etc., etc., etc.?

A while ago I received a request from a friend abroad for honest-to-goodness authentic frankincense. I knew just where to go. Upon entering one of the numerous stores on this street, I received the standard “La posso aiutare?” (Can I help you?) from the owner-shopkeeper. She happened to be chatting with a priest in that friendly and informal regular-customer kind of way. I let her know what I was looking for and she promptly produced at least half a dozen varieties. The moment I hinted that I wasn’t exactly well-versed in frankincense purchasing considerations, the priest chimed in.

“AHA! Mi permetta… (Please allow me…) See, this one is pungent and strong, good for solemn sermons, definitely gets your point across! And then, there are times when you really want to wow your parishioners, so you use this one, which is great because it makes lots of smoke, very impressive! And this one here has a light and fragrant bouquet, just perfect for weddings and baptisms. Nope, you don’t want this one, that’s for funerals. While this variety here…” and so on he went.

Hard not to have a good laugh in a moment like that, unexpectedly learning some insider tricks of the trade. All this to say that they were so friendly and forthcoming with information that anyone should feel comfortable entering one of the stores even if you aren’t in the market for any of these special goods.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

12 Responses to “Religious Supplies”

  1. sallina5

    I’ve enjoyed looking in the windows of those near the Duomo in Napoli, too.

  2. Loretta

    I forwarded this article on Religious Supplies and Frankincense to my brother ~ a priest ~ and his comment was ~ “If it were pure Frankincense it would not differ”.

  3. Michael Yaccino

    I just Googled “Frankincense”. For a great education you should too.

  4. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    GB you find the best things to tell us about. I would never have thought through the subtleties of varieties of incense. Amazing.

  5. What a coincidence! In September we’ll be staying in an apartment for a week just across from this very store! We will be facing it every time we emerge from our apartment building door! Now I really can’t wait to step inside this store. Thanks for the information.

  6. Malinda

    That was a funny story. During my time of walking by theses shops, I always stare with interested wonder. Such unusual shops- at least to me….I never thought of actually going in.

  7. NiCk Trachet

    I always laughed at the name of the travel agency for priests nearby: “Quo Vadis”


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