There was a time when the Catholic church sold indulgences — a piece of paper that granted sinners both partial and full pardon from punishment in the afterlife — in order to raise funds for various religious and civil projects, like Crusades and cathedrals. Today, it’s stamps.
The Vatican’s Philatelic & Numismatic Office, which has been selling stamps since 1852, has introduced a special $26 stamp and certificate package in order to fund the restoration of the colonnade surrounding St. Peter’s square. Mauro Olivieri, the office’s director, told the Associated Press that if the full 150,000 print run is sold, about $3.9-million could be raised.
There are two stamps affixed to the certificate: one features the coat of arms of the current Pope, Benedict XVI, and the other the seal of Pope Alexander VII, whose vast urban renewal projects, including the colonnade designed by one of his favourite artists and architects, Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1657, helped to transform Rome into the Baroque theatre that still marks the city today.
The project, which was first launched in 2009, aims to clean the 284 columns, 140 statutes, two fountains and the central obelisk that dominate the piazza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Work is expected to be finished before 2015 at an estimated price of $18 million.