Some of the most invaluable artifacts in this Collection are the three chalices featured today. Because of their inseparable connection to the Eucharist, they are in many ways priceless.
Each of the chalices is connected to one of three 19th century popes: Pius VII, Leo XII and Leo XIII (who reigned until 1903). Here is some information about them:
Pius VII & Leo XII: Coats of Arms on Base of Silver Chalice
This chalice is the newest artifact in the Collection
The artifact presented here is a solid silver chalice featuring the coats of arms of two 19th century popes, Leo XII and Pius VII. A unique feature of the chalice is the depiction of their coats of arms on its base as well as a bishop’s coat of arms to the very right.
It is surmised that the recipient of the chalice may have been a bishop who was head of the papal household, probably serving for both popes, who reigned consecutively between 1800-1829.
Pius VII: Ornate Chalice with Maker’s Mark
The chalice is a very ornate and beautiful artifact that dates between the years 1814 and 1870. Unlike the chalice belonging to Pope Leo XIII, it does not have a particular pope’s coat of arms. And so we can only surmise that it was used by a pope, but we know it was used in service of the pope because of the maker’s mark located on the lip of the chalice.
Every metal worker, jeweler, and medal maker or silversmith add maker’s marks to the items they create. This practice also allows us to identify the time period in which the item was created.
This chalice indicates it was made between 1814-1870 because it has a maker’s mark of the cross keys and tiara–a very, very tiny mark in this piece of metal. This was just to show it was made in service to the Holy Father. In the case of this chalice, it was added to the lip, the middle and the base. On the base, the name of the priest who gave this chalice to St. Charles’ Church is also included.
Beginning in 1814 fine metal artists in the Papal States used this particular maker’s mark. Napoleon Bonaparte had released Pius VII from custody after nearly four years. Jubilation was so great in Rome upon his release that the artists started putting this maker’s mark of cross keys and tiara on their works in honor of the Holy Father’s safety. That practice continued until 1870 when the Papal States were taken over by United Italy.
There is no indication that any one particular pope used this chalice, but the symbol of the cross keys and tiara maker’s mark deem this totally appropriate for this Collection.
It is interesting to speculate in whose hands and on what altars this 200-year-old chalice was used. It always goes back to the central source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist. It is part of the living history of the Eucharist and the priests who are its celebrants. It helps us to recognize that the Eucharist is a part of the living history of the papacy. Father Richard Kunst.
Chalice Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Pope Leo XIII
This is a silver chalice belonging to Pope Leo XIII that he both used and gave as a gift to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his priesthood in 1887. It’s all silver with his papal coat of arms engraved on its base.
As precious an item as this is, it really is because it leads back to the Eucharist, having contained the Precious Blood of Christ. It all leads back to Jesus Christ, sacramentally. So as spectacular as the chalice is, what’s more important is what has been inside of it.
So we can look at this and be amazed to think Pope Leo XIII used this, but what’s more amazing is that Christ shed his blood and gave it to us to drink and this vessel has contained it.
I use this chalice on a daily basis. It’s a good way to stay connected to this Pope because as a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, I’m aware he established our Diocese in 1889. So it’s a real good connection to our founding Holy Father. But then, I also have that real tangible connection each day, using a chalice that our Holy Father used. While I could store this, it’s so spiritually significant that I want both to use it at Mass and in teaching situations.
Pope Leo XIII, until Pope John Paul II, was the second longest reigning pope in history. When elected, he was 68 years old. He actually followed Pius IX, who at present, is the longest reigning pope in history. Pius IX died in 1878. After a very long pontificate, they usually try to elect an older guy, so the pontificate will be for a briefer period of time. But he fooled them! He lived so long that he ended by being the second longest reigning pope in history, (until the reign of Blessed John Paul II) dying in 1903. —Father Richard Kunst