The Oldest Surviving Sacramental from Antiquity

Some Interesting Facts Concerning the Life of Blessed Pope Gregory X and a Scapular Found in His Burial Tomb

In a book I wrote and published in 2013, titled Heaven Bound by Wearing The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, there is located on page 7 some information on a miraculous incorrupt scapular. Mention of this miracle is also made in The Fatima Center’s booklet on the Brown Scapular, Garment of Grace, on page 4.

It was worn by Blessed Pope Gregory X at the time of his death in 1276. He was born Teobaldo Visconti in 1210 at Piacenza, Italy. Teobaldo was from a wealthy noble family in Piacenza. He became the 184th Pope to serve as head of the Roman Catholic Church. This was only 25 years after the apparition of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock at Alysford Abbey, Alysford, England in Kent County. Simon Stock was the head of the Carmelite Order in 1251 – the date of the apparition.

History records that before Visconti was elected Pope he became affiliated with the Carmelite Order and wore the Carmelite habit as a sign of this affiliation. 

In 1830 Blessed Pope Gregory’s tomb was opened so that his remains might be placed in a silver and glass reliquary. Upon opening the casket a small scapular was seen lying over the pontiff’s shoulder area some 554 years after his death.

This scapular is supposedly viewable today, some 720 years later. The miraculous scapular is located at the Musco Civico Medievale Museum in Arezzo, Italy. This museum is one of 11 museums in Arezzo. At the time of Gregory X’s death, it was customary that when someone died while travelling they were buried in the town closest to their passing. Even today Blessed Pope Gregory X can be viewed at the Arezzo Cathedral.

This reported connection to the Carmelites in England can be made more probable as it was known that Teobaldo Visconti was close friends with Prince Edward. Edward’s father, King Henry III, in 1252 issued letters of Royal Protection for all the Carmelites in England. (Henry III reigned from 1216 to 1272 and was succeeded upon the throne by Edward.)

Also in 1252, Pope Innocent IV called the Carmelites “his beloved Brothers.” He issued letters to all Archbishops and bishops in Christendom instructing them to treat with charity and consideration the Carmelites. This occurred after an emissary of the Carmelites traveled to Rome in 1252 on behalf of Simon Stock to tell the Pope of the apparition of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

This scapular is considered the first small sacramental to survive antiquity. It is a miracle in that material, metal embroidery thread, and other types of threads will all disintegrate in less than 20 years.

Some Additional Facts Regarding the Life of Teobaldo Visconti

  • He was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from September 1271 to January 10, 1276.
  • Visconti’s uncle was the Archbishop of Milan, Italy. This led him into the study of Theology at the University of Paris.
  • His first assignment in the Catholic Church was for the Bishop of Palastrina, Cardinal Giacomo de Pecorari, and he became the bishop’s constant aid. This position put him in contact with the most important people in France – both secular and ecclesiastic. He was with Cardinal Giacomo until his death in 1244.
  • Visconti accompanied Prince Edward of England on the 9th Holy Crusade as he was committed to regaining control of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks – thus protecting the relics of the life of Christ.
  • In 1245 his new assignment included helping to organize an Ecumenical Council in Lyons, France. During this time he came to know such figures as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other theologians of high stature.
  • In 1267 Pope Clement IV sent Teobaldo Visconti to England to assist Cardinal Ottobono Fieschi, Papal Legate to England. They were to support King Henry III in regards to a rebellion of the barons. Here Visconti was aware of the Carmelite Order and the apparition of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel at Alysford. It is also highly probable he met St. Simon Stock before his death on May 16, 1265.
  • In 1271, after his election as Pope Gregory X, he used his excellent negotiation skills meeting with Marco Polo and other Polo family members to discuss correspondence sent from Kubla Khan, the Mongol emperor, for an exchange of ideas and studies of Western and Eastern Cultures.
  • He was beatified in 1713 and is considered to be known as Blessed Pope Gregory X. His cause for canonization is awaiting a miracle attributed to his intercession since 1944 under the review of Pope Pius XII.
  • Pope Gregory X is a central character in the 1982 American-Italian mini-series Marco Polo. Gregory X was portrayed by Burt Lancaster.

References:

Heaven Bound by Wearing The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, by Teresa Farris-Dacar; Wikipedia, “Pope Gregory X”; Britannica Online Encyclopedia, “Blessed Gregory X”; Study.com, “Pope Gregory X: Biography & Accomplishments.”

Author’s Note:

The above sources did not mention that Visconti belonged to the Third Order of the Carmelites, and only one of the sources mention the Franciscans, which I had never heard of before. At this point it still holds true that the Brown Scapular has always been the chief scapular of the Roman Catholic Church, and so the miraculous Visconti scapular was more likely the Brown Scapular.

About the Author:

Mrs. Teresa Farris-Dacar, M.A. in History, M.Ed., B.A., has published the books listed below. They are available from the author by e-mailing her at ForGodandKing@att.net or placing a special order at Barnes & Noble or Books A Million.

From England – To Barbados – To Carolina;
1670-1700: The Founding of Charles Towne;
For God and King [a Christian historical novel];
Heaven Bound by Wearing The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel;

3 books translated from French into English for the first time:

  • The Life of Mother Anne-Seraphine Boulier (written in 1683),
  • Records of the Monastery of Dijon,1611-1789,
  • Biography of Madame Acarie, 1566-1618.
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