At a press conference held prior to the public viewing of the "Vatican Comes to Duluth" exhibition, Fr. Richard Kunst
carefully handles a rare illuminated manuscript.
...Fr. Richard Kunst, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., is among those rare collectors of the unusual.
For some nine years, Kunst
has gathered the largest privately owned collection of Catholic religious artifacts in North America.
began collecting church-related artifacts, Kunst
gathered celebrity memorabilia.
Hughes gave the seventh graders a tour and Kunst
guided eighth graders.
During the tour, Kunst
posed the question, "Why do popes wear white?"With the students stumped, Kunst
answered, "Every pope wears white because of Pope Pius V. He
was a Dominican and Dominican's wear white.Every pope after Pope Pius V has worn white."
Included among the displays were two Swiss Guard uniforms.Kunst
owns one of these uniforms, dating back to the papacy of Pope Pius X, 1903-1914.The other shown was lent to Kunst
in an exchange with the Vatican and is an example of a uniform worn by a modern day Swiss Guard.
"In 2006, the Swiss Guard is celebrating their 500th anniversary," Kunst
said."They don't have a Swiss Guard uniform from the time of Pius X and asked if we would lend ours to their yearlong exhibit for 2006.It's rare that the Vatican lends out Swiss Guard uniforms.There is only one other in the Western Hemisphere and that's in Washington, D.C., at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center."
Current policy, Kunst
said, requires Swiss Guards to return their uniforms if they serve under five years."The tour of duty is actually two years, so most guys wouldn't be able to keep them," he
said.The uniform owned by Kunst was purchased from an antiques dealer in Chicago.
"What probably happened is that somebody had served for more than five years, was able to get the uniform and moved to the United States," he
's collection of papal signatures includes one from the man who went on to become Pope John Paul I. The signature of Albino Luciani, Kunst believes, could be the rarest papal signature in the last 500 years.Luciani had been a cardinal for only a short time prior to his
1978 election as pope.
often uses modern technology to build his
papal collection."Through the Internet, it's very easy to make connections with European dealers," he
said."There are a lot of manuscript dealers.If you deal with manuscript dealers in Europe, you are a lot more likely to get papal-related or church-related manuscripts."
Through the Internet Kunst is in constant communication with both manuscript and antiques dealers around the world who sell church-related items.Kunst
has built a reputation and dealers often contact him before an article is available publicly.He
explained that there are only a few other collectors of papal or church-related items.
"Because it's a unique hobby, we know each other," Kunst
said."That's thanks in large part because of the Internet."The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
has approached Kunst
to display his
collection."I haven't answered them yet," he
said.Besides Kunst, Duluth's Bishop Dennis Schnurr also lent items for the exhibit.