When he emigrated from his native Peru to Rome, Italy, Antonio Arellano never imagined he would end up measuring the foot of one of the most influential men in the world: Pope Benedict XVI. He still can't believe that his little shoe store, in the Borgo Pio neighborhood, close to Vatican City, became the favorite of cardinals and religious leaders.
Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t use Prada shoes, as was speculated at some point about the red pair that have been his trademark throughout his pontificate period, which ends this February 28 after he made his resignation public.
The man behind those iconic red shoes is, in fact, Hispanic. They are a product of Peruvian artisan Arellano, The Washington Post reports.
As it happens with many other immigrants, Arellano left Peru in 1998 looking for a better future. He came to Rome with little knowledge of the language, but with the most powerful weapon he had at the moment: his shoemaker skills.
After setting up his business, suddenly, Arellano began receiving visits by several religious personalities, until one day he finally met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Aloisius, who later became the 265th Pope.
"When he was cardinal, he came in like any normal person to have his shoes mended," Arellano said to Reuters.
With the shoe measurements of the leader of the Catholic Church, Arellano, who is 42, was able to create the moccasins that Benedict used during the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II in 2011.
"The Pope is treated the same as all clients. He doesn't accept any favoritism and pays just as others do," he said to Peruvian media.
And now that the transition has started and his most important customer is stepping out of his current position, Arellano says he just hopes the next Pope would also enjoy his work.
"In the future, the new Pope, let's hope he will be my customer, if he is, hallelujah, another one .. Working for him would be fantastic," said the artisan to Reuters.
And as per the Pope, who will no longer continue to use the colorful pair after this month, he will now keep carrying the tradition of wearing designs made by Hispanic artists, when he exchanged his current shoes for brown loafers given to him by shoemakers during a trip to Leon, Mexico last year, Reuters reports.