About the Papal Artifacts’ Collection

As a high school senior, I had an assignment in my Government class to write to a politician. I chose President Jimmy Carter. He sent me an autographed photo of himself and his wife and that started my interest in autographs. I began researching celebrity addresses in all fields–sports, music, politics, movies, and more–and wrote letters to these various stars. After spending hundreds of dollars in postage, I amassed a fairly large collection.

My interest then turned toward historical autographs, particularly of past presidents. I started getting subscriptions to various autograph dealers and, though I was a student, I was able to buy a nice autograph from time to time. At one point, I had autographs of 16 presidents, dating back to President Martin Van Buren.

In 1995, I received an autograph dealer catalog that offered three different papal autographs for auction. It was the first time I had ever seen a signature of a Pope made available–in a way I was shocked that they even existed. I had to get a loan from my sister, but in the end I won two of the three papal items–autographs of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, both as cardinals.

This is what started my bug for papal and religious autographs. Not long after, I was able to add signatures of Pius VII and Pius IX. Eventually I lost all interest in modern day celebrities, as well as presidential autographs. I sold nearly the entire collection. With that money, I was able to purchase a number of other fine autographs with religious themes.

After being ordained to the priesthood, I finally had a steady income to put towards the collection. At the same time, the World Wide Web was a phenomenal source of leads for rare items. I made contact with several manuscript dealers throughout Europe and was able to access great items at very good prices.

I continue my search for old, rare, and unique papal items, from documents to papal clothing. The collection is always growing.

I am often asked what I intend to do with this collection. It has always been and remains my intent to donate it to the Church where it may be enjoyed forever. At the present time I am seeking a location where it may be displayed rather than kept in archival conditions. However, because of the rarity and age of the artifacts, this would demand museum quality conditions where storage of the artifacts could be closely monitored. An ideal situation would be a Catholic college or university interested in showing this very valuable and historical collection.

-Father Richard Kunst

A Tribute to the Papal Artifacts’ Team

The virtual success of the Papal Artifacts’ web site belongs to a team of people who have given generously of their time and talent to make it possible. As a result, the Collection is available for viewing in nearly every country in the world. We are mentioned on many other web sites as well as in chat rooms in Europe, Asia and South America. If you google anything to do with the papacy, as often as not, Papal Artifacts will be the number one reference you are given. Over thirty pages on Google are devoted to the site.

All of this only adds to my primary objective, which is to teach about the papacy and about the many gifts to the world our Church, lead by our Holy Fathers, offers. As I have stated before, my intent is to donate this Collection to the Church where it may be enjoyed forever. When a permanent home with museum quality archival conditions can be found to display the artifacts, a more personal experience, similar to the tours I often give of these items, will be able to be enjoyed.

The site was created by Leif Birnbaum and I am indebted to him for the success of Papal Artifacts.

I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the main photographer of Papal Artifacts, Mr. John La Tour. A member of my parish in Duluth, MN, Mr. La Tour has given his time and talent to this web site, making the artifacts as beautiful in print as they are in reality.

Mr. La Tour is a landscape photographer from Duluth, Minnesota, USA, whose work may be found at Northwoods Photography: jlatour.zenfolio.com. His collections are from travels to Italy and South Africa as well as to many destinations in the United States.

Papal Artifacts gratefully acknowledges the many contributions he has made to this website. He has my personal thanks as well.

Additionally, Mr. Jeremy Vidmar, Ms. Michelle Sailstad and Ms. Anny Goeb were responsible for scanning hundreds of documents that were of better quality than photography would have made possible. The scanning took place primarily in the summer of 2010 when Jeremy spent a summer in Duluth, Minnesota contributing not only to hours of scanning, but also to hours of technical support. Anny, John and Michelle continue to offer their time on a moment’s notice when items are added to the site.

Dr. Jennifer Walski of Bordeaux, France, edited hundreds of thousands of words on every page of Papal Artifacts. Her expertise caused us to return countless times for accuracy in grammar, usage and clarity in the dispersal of this information. She is the prime reason for the quality of all the writing of Papal Artifacts. Thank you, Jennifer!

To all of you, for all you have done I thank you! God bless!

-Father Richard Kunst