The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. This very interesting item of historic significance was featured on the second episode of the series, Popes of the 20th Century. The DVD of this series is available from EWTN.
Here is Father’s Commentary:
The item is a papal shoe belonging to Pope Pius XII. It’s very unique, obviously–people don’t usually walk around in shoes like this. For example, Pope John Paul II chose not to wear red shoes, but Pope Benedict XVI did–but his were leather, unlike this one.
This one is a more traditional papal shoe that would have been used all the way up to Pius XII if not later than that.
Popes wore all red clothing until Pope St. Pius V in 1566. He kept his white Dominican habit but retained the red shoes of previous popes.
People are always interested in the way I acquire these artifacts. This item came about because the Vatican actually sent this shoe to a group of cobblers in northern Italy as a gift and as a kind of model for future shoes to be made for the Holy Father. But I have no idea how it got into the market after that!
If you look on the bottom of this shoe it is pretty well worn, so Pius XII actually used this shoe quite a bit.
So this shoe was worn around the Vatican, and as the Bible says, “Beautiful are the feet that carry the Gospel,”–that spread the Gospel: The shoes of the Fisherman!
This shoe, belonging to Pope Pius XII, appears to be a slipper made of red velvet and decorated in gold braid with a gold cross in the middle.
Papal shoes vary depending upon the location of the pope. He wears red leather outdoor shoes. They should not be confused with the indoor papal slippers, which this artifact appears to be.
Before 1969, the pope wore episcopal sandals during the Mass and the color of the sandals matched the various liturgical colors of the vestments. Outdoor shoes were made of plain red Morocco leather and also had a wide cross in gold braid. Various modern popes added and eliminated decorations on their shoes according to their own personal tastes.
Popes also have their own personal cobblers in Rome. The red shoes are one of the few remnants, along with the camauro, papal mozzetta and tabarro that are of the former red color of papal garments.
Since Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572) changed the papal color to white, it has remained the same. You may read a biography of St. Pius V under Papal Histories that will explain the reason for the change in color from red to white.
The information on the bottom of the shoe contains verification of its authenticity.