Luca Canfora is no stranger to designing papal vestments; his previous projects include “The Young Pope” and “The New Pope.” Coming into Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” meant Canfora knew where he could have costumes made with the highest quality, and when it came to fabric choice and constructing his costumes.
Canfora had to create Papal Vestments and the Swiss Guard uniforms. “I consulted the extensive photographic archive of the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano which is located inside the Vatican State.” He says. “I was able to find images related to all the situations that were to be represented in the film. For the rich Stole of the Pontificate, I was inspired by the historical one most used by many Popes of this last century. For the Swiss Guards, I was inspired by the original uniforms.”
Aside from going to the Vatican and observing the uniforms up close and personal, he used other sources such as video footage and books to ensure the costumes he created were accurate.
In the film, Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio have opposing views: traditionalist v. modern. Aside from that, they have opposing dress styles. “I highlighted the differences between the two Popes in various fundamental elements of their clothing. Benedict XVI in all official and solemn situations always wears clothes with all the typical elements provided by tradition.” Canfora specifically points to the election of Pope Benedict. “The dressing that takes place in the Room of Tears, we used the typical red silk mozzetta, white tunic with precious lace. He wears the rich stole of the pontificate, the new gold and emerald cross specifically designed for the new Pope, the red papal shoes with white socks, and the short white trousers (although those are not seen).” Benedict’s papal outfit is in every way traditional.
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In contrast, when Pope Francis is elected, he is “dressed in a simple way without always using all the vestments traditionally used by the Pope,” Canfora explains, “At his election, he presents himself on the balcony only with the white cassock without the mozzetta, without the white tunic with lace. He keeps the visible black trousers and black shoes. He does not wear the new cross either but retains the same cross he used as Archbishop in Argentina — and the stole of the pontificate is worn only at the moment of blessing.”
For the conclave scene where Cardinals from around the world gather for the conclave Canfora says the manufacturing of the Cardinal robes was a “long process.” The vestments for the conclave were produced in multiple numbers. They had to find the “right woolen fabric and have them specially dyed so the color would be accurate.”
The accuracy in the costume design meant that Canfora’s costumes for the conclave were heavy and hot. During takes, the vestments would need to be ironed and reset for the next take. In addition to the vestments, the white tunics with lace were all different, and each one was accessorized with different rings and crosses.
His main challenge was being “as faithful to reality as possible.” For Canfora, that meant the design details needed to be specific for his main characters. Yet, he still needed to maintain a difference between the two in their “everyday wear.” To Fernando Meirelles it was important that Bergoglio’s daily wear in Argentina be “simple and well worn to bring it as close as possible to the world of the poor with whom it related.”