Meet Antonio Arellano, the Man Who Makes Pope Benedict XVI’s Red Shoes

Tags: Currents Benedict XVI, Crux, Faith, Inspiration, Media, Pope Benedict, World News

Currents News Staff

Antonio Arellano was born in Trujillo, Peru, and he’s been in Italy for 30 years. His profession, hard work and dedication have led him to make shoes for all types of people, but there’s one in particular that has marked his life, thanks to a special pair of red shoes: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 

“It was a huge joy. [When they called me,] I shared this happiness with my son, Daniel,” said Antonio. “I told him, They ordered my shoes for Benedict! This is great! It was wonderful! That’s how I felt.”

From that moment, a lasting friendship grew between the German pope and this Peruvian cobbler.

“On my fiftieth birthday, by 10 a.m., no one had called me to wish me a happy birthday. My phone hadn’t rung. In that moment, the pope’s driver showed up,” Antonio explained. “He said to me, ‘The Holy Father sends you a gift and his congratulations.’”

Antonio has collected thousands of anecdotes during his 30 years in this profession. He recounts some of them in his book, “Il Calzolaio del Papa,” “The Pope’s Shoemaker.” In it, he shares the secrets that made his dream come true.

“Faith is big. Having faith is the most beautiful thing in life. It is life. Faith moves mountains. Having faith in God and trying to keep your head in the right place allows you to accomplish great things, but you always need to work—to work with love,” said Antonio. “Everything you do, do it for a good reason, not so much for money. Do it for a good cause, and then the money will come.”

Antonio runs his store a short distance away from the Vatican. His son, Daniel, helps him with his work.

They’re attentive, hard-working and detail-oriented. They have an unusual ability to connect with their customers, making them feel like family. Many consider them true shoe-making artists.

“When the shoe is ready, you take out the mold and look at it,” he said. “I just say, ‘Oh my gosh! It’s beautiful!’ I say to myself, ‘Great job, Antonio!’”

That same enthusiasm is what goes into each of his shoes, from the classics to the most colorful, those for important public figures to those he makes for daily use.

Hard work and passion are part of the small details he talks about in his book, “Il Calzolaio del Papa.” It’s currently available in Italian and will be translated into Spanish and English.