Doré’s “Observations in Rome”

“Observations in Rome,”
By A. Dore Korner

The Western Sentinel, February 7, 1913.

“The audience with the Pope deserves first place for several reasons.  First, because of its real interest to me, and second, because my courage was taxed to obtain the end!  I do not know why I should have hesitated about going to the Vatican alone.  I think I once said that there are two places I should dread to penetrate alone – the Vatican and Monte Carlo.  What a curious combination, but it is true that these two places rather awed me, and now I wonder I was ever afraid.

The letter from Cardinal Gibbons to Bishop Kennedy opened the way for me easily, altho, as Bishop Kennedy is now in the States, the rector in charge had the matter in hand.  He gave me an important-looking document which I had to present at the Vatican.  Imagine me, if you please, arriving at the famous Bronze Door, guarded most impressively by Swiss guards in their gorgeous uniforms, and summoning all my courage when I was told to mount the marble steps to some unknown place above!  When I reached a small ante-room I was passed into a waiting room, then up another flight of stairs and ushered into a room where I found a black-robed priest. During my journey to the seeming center of the huge building I regained my composure, which was needed when I presented my document.  For I had to manage with my French – which is nearly always unmanageable!  Anyway, I got thru and obtained all the information I wanted.  I could have the audience the very next morning.

Accordingly, the next day I drove over, and if you only could have seen me!  I don’t think you would have recognized me.  I had to dress in either black or white; the former seemed most practical, so in black I was dressed, with the necessary black scarf over my head.  I looked like a Spanish senorita; I verily believe.

On reaching the Vatican, I was shown across the court into a beautifully decorated cloak room; then into a long salon, gorgeous in red hangings and silk, and at the end of which was a sumptuous gilded throne.  There were chairs all around the room, and there I found a number of people, waiting for the same audience.  There was a death-like silence, broken only by whispers and the occasional click of rosaries and medallions on the arms of people who had brought them to be blessed.

Meanwhile I studied the decorations, and here I must throw a bouquet or two at you, Papa; for the whole scheme struck me as being so nearly your own taste.  The walls were hung in red figured silk; the curtains in the same with touches of gilt, while the carpet was green with a very small figure.  When I saw the other rooms, which are all done in red, and so much like your own work, I said that I must tell you about it.  So, if I did not see the “Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco” sign on the pyramids that I somehow expected to see, I felt that I had found something which gave me a really good opportunity to toss you a flower.  There – did you catch it?

Well, to return to the audience.  We were finally called and escorted thru three or four rooms, some hung with tapestries, until we arrived at a small audience room, which also had a throne.  I stood near the door, and when the Pope was announced, and we all knelt, he stood near me – really very near, and if I had been a Catholic, I suppose I should have kissed his robe.   He is such a dear, charming old man!  He came in in a white robe, so that it hardly seemed that he was such a regal personage. In fact, he seemed nice, older man that they say he really is.  He seemed a little feeble, and his voice, as he pronounced the blessing seemed a trifle tired.  I suppose the Christmas festivities wearied him more than usual.  I came away impressed by his ____ness, for, having once seen him well, no one could but have that impression.”