Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Great Story

Since this is Palm Sunday, I've been thinking about a story that I once heard.

The obelisk now in the center of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican used to be in the Circus Maximus. Pope Sixtus V decided to move it to the square, and because the feat of engineering was so tricky, decreed that no one either working on the task (about 900 men) or watching were to make a sound.

The task got underway, but as the obelisk began to move, the ropes holding it began to snap from the strain. It looked as if the obelisk might fall and smash when a seaman called out, "Wet the ropes! Wet the ropes!"

Dampening the ropes made them stretch, so they didn't break and the obelisk was saved.

Because he'd broken the pope's command, the seaman was brought before the Pontiff. Instead of being angry that his order had been disobeyed, however, the grateful pope asked the seaman to name his own reward. The seaman was from a family whose farm was pretty much useless in terms of agriculture, but they did have palms, so he asked that his family always be the ones to supply the palms to the Vatican for Palm Sunday.

Now, I don't know how much of this is true; it may only be fiction (although I did find this on Google). True or not, though, I think it's a great tale. Can't you just imagine that tense silence? And then the ropes start snapping and everybody's (quietly) panicking and suddenly, a voice rings out, "Wet the ropes! Wet the ropes!"

Imagine the seaman being hauled before the Pope, and when he's asked what he wants, doesn't say money or jewels; he comes up with a way to make the family farm pay in perpetuity.

I bet somebody could make a pretty good romance out of this, with that guy as the hero.

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