Un Minuto con…

La Pietà

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

Pieta 2On April 4th 1964, the SS Cristoforo Colombo ocean liner carried the Pietà from the Vatican to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows.  The Pietà was put in a crate that was filled with plastic foam, which was lowered onto a rubber base in the first class pool where the least damage was likely to happen to it.

During the actual loading, the SS Cristoforo Colombo Pieta 1had been put in dry dock so that she would not move and jeopardize the crate and its content. Only easily removable snap hooks secured the crate so that it could be released easily in case of accident.

The thousands of persons visiting the Vatican Pavilion got a chance to see Michelangelo’s greatest artwork.  Not too many Americans took European Vacations in those days hence bringing the Pietà to New York, thanks to Cardinal Spellman, was truly a brilliant idea.

Pieta 3On November 3, 1965, I was on the first class deck of the Cristoforo Colombo and I watched the Pietà being reloaded for its return trip to Italy. Hardly anyone was around.

One thought came to my mind that in 1964-1965 the Italian Line had four ships in its fleet serving Italy; they were the Michelangelo, the Raffaello, the Leonardo Da Vinci and Cristoforo Colombo.

It would have meant a lot to Michelangelo Buonarroti  (1475 – 1564) if the Pietà would have been transported on the SS Michelangelo named in his honor.


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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3 Responses to Un Minuto con…

  1. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    Nice remembrance, Rosario. I saw the Pieta at the 1965 World’s Fair. I remember we were on an automated walkway. The room was cool and dim. The Pieta was dramatic in that stark setting.

    • Rosario says:

      HI Emily Ann,
      Now, everytime I’m at the Vatican I make sure to see the Pieta’ and memories of the crate on the SS Colombo comes to mind. I think I must have visited the Vatican and seen the Pieta’ at least 150 times since then.
      Michelangelo was asked how did he do it? His reply was “The Pieta’ was always in the marble block, I only had to make it come out”.

  2. EmilyAnn Frances says:

    I went to the Vatican in 1976 with my Grandparents. My Grandfather’s niece was our hostess. It was amazing the way the light streamed in from the round windows in the ceiling. We didn’t get to see the Pieta. My Grandfather’s niece spent most of the day taking us to boutiques and trendy cafes.

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