Pope Francis prepares to sit in one of the eight chairs specially designed for his trip to Canada at his stop in Iqaluit. The chairs were designed and manufactured by Quality and Company from Maple, Ont. Photo by Michael Swan

Furniture maker set the table for papal visit

By 
  • August 20, 2022

Though Ontario was not one of the stops on the Pope’s recent visit to Canada, a furniture company from just outside Toronto gave the province a seat at the historic table. 

Quality and Company, a furniture maker based in Maple, Ont., was tasked with designing the eight chairs used during the Pope’s public programs during the Canadian tour. The chairs are expected to remain in each place he visited as a legacy piece.

Company president Frank Caruso, whose father is an immigrant from Italy, says being a part of the papal visit in this way was significant to him and his family. 

“I was watching it every day,” said Caruso. “I feel like we were part of history and the fact that they’ll be in museums in those areas or kept where they are, I think it’s really a nice honour to be a part of that… It’s a family-run business, and my dad was a first-generation Italian coming to Canada. For him, it was a really big deal as well. To be able to connect like that was really cool for him.”

The visit, which ended on July 29, included stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut. With less than 45 days from plans to completion, it was “all hands on deck” for the design and manufacturing team that pulled out all stops to finish the project in time.

With specs provided by the Vatican to accommodate for the Pope’s mobility issues, the designers used four different stains and six different fabric and embroidery patterns. 

The chairs, which stand about 55-centimetres high, were adorned with white padding and a carved wooden detail featuring Indigenous symbolism. Quality and Company worked with Métis graphic designer Shaun Vincent to incorporate the logo he designed for the papal visit. 

In line with the papal visit theme of Walking Together, the circular logo features salmon, caribou and eagles which dance together in the sky and represent a connection to the Creator. The logo also includes the keys of St. Peter and peace doves. The intricate logo can be seen carved into the wood of the chairs in the various designs. 

“The circle can be found everywhere in Indigenous life,” said Vincent in a statement. “In a circle, all are equal, all are visible. Ceremony needs this symbol. It is history. It holds our stories. It is who we are. A symbol representing this event should have trust and calm at the centre. It is why I chose this symbol as its core, with the teachings existing within its shape.”

Taking every detail into account, Quality and Company designed the chairs to be intricate yet minimal to match the special seat of honour and also the weight and tone of the moment in the journey towards healing and reconciliation. The chairs were done free of charge. 

“(Pope Francis) doesn’t like it overdone so we kept that in mind when we designed them,” said Caruso. “We designed something just very minimal, not a lot of carvings and gold or extravagant. I think that’s the kind of Pope that Francis is. We designed something very nice and clean, and I think you can see that from the chairs. The beauty of being able to add the Indigenous symbols on the top and the sides was really nice as well.”

Through the chairs, in a small but significant way the province was included in every public address and will be a part of the memory of the visit for generations to come.   

“It was so nice to see everybody was so happy that we were a part of it,” said Caruso. “That somebody in Ontario was able to design and manufacture something like that for them.”

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