00 6/18/2009 1:02 PM


I had this serendipitous find today while googling 'Cardinal Ratzinger in Capri"... It was written not too long ago, and I still cannot figure out what occasioned the article looking back after 16 years!... It comes from an online Italian Catholic daily journal of apologetics and Catholic news, about which I knew nothing until I came across it by chance today.

How the cardinal appreciated Capri:
He was knowledgeable about plants,
musical therapy and archeology

Translated from

Sept. 28, 2008

In the autumn of 1992, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was in Capri to receive a prestigious prize and stayed at the famous Villa San Michele in Anacapri, 172 meters above sea level.

The cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI, was very appreciative of Capri and of the famous villa [built by the Swedish physician Axel Munthe who settled on Capri in the late 19th century].

In fact, his host discovered he was very knowledgeable about plants, music and musical therapy, adn even archeology, according to the honorary vice-consul of Sweden on the island, Erdeos Ledental, who lives in the villa.

"The cardinal was very happy to stay in the villa which has many important archeological objects discovered by Axel Munthe. In this regard, the Cardinal often cited a scholarly booklet written by Munthe in the 1930s. He had read it and obviously aroused his curiosity.

"The cardinal had come to Capri for a prize-giving ceremony, traditionally held on the eve of the Feast of St. Michael. He had a room on the second floor of the villa, and sisters were assigned to attend to him. And with great pleasure, I did the honors of the house."

What impressed you about the cardinal?

"His immense culture, coupled with great curiosity. He loved walking through the gardens, and he wished to visit the archeological ruins, which he did, citing Munthe's book almost from memory."

What else do you remember?

"That he was an amiable, kind and gentle man, without the least arrogance. He would ask information about everything. He was much attracted to plants and I realized that he knew a lot about botany."

How is that?

"He knew the characteristics of various trees and flowering plants.... He was full of praises for the property [the villa and its surroundings] and he admired nature. He was fascinated by the panorama from here, the see, the color of the sky."

You know of course he loves fine music....

"Oh yes, it's not a secret that he likes music, especially classical but there was an additional detail... In reference to Axel Munthe, he was familiar, even if superficially, with musical therapy - the influence of music in healing some ailments. He was well aware of this aspect of music."

Did he ever talk about food in Capri?

He knew about limoncello [the typical Sorrento-Capri liqueur made by steeping lemon peel in syrup] but he had not yet tasted it. The nuns cared for him with great affection and treated him with sweets. I know he was delighted with a 'baba' [cake saturated with liqueur] and the typical sweets of the region. I also know he loves pasta.

"We can only hope he can return to this island as a Pope. He really loved walking out in the park, breathing in the air...."