The town of
in southern Montepulciano reeks of affluence
stronger than the garlic coming from its many little restaurants. There is wine everywhere. Long caves going deep into the hill selling
the local Super Tuscan, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. And with this Vino Nobile begins the story of
the Irish Embassy to the Holy See. Tuscany
The name of the Nobile wine comes from the family who ruled Montepulciano and had their Roman residence on the highest hill within the old walls of the city. The Villa Spada.
Supporters of the Catholic wave across
Europe, the Nobiles
welcomed O’Neill and O’Donnell after the Flight of the Earls and the two
Irishmen are buried further up the Janiculum hill at the . Church of San
For ten days in June of 1849 the Villa Spada became the centre of world attention as Garibaldi and his red shirts made their last ditch, heroic stance against the French as he fought, rather ironically, against the rule of the
Nearly 100 years later in June 1946 the Villa Spada came up for sale, right at the time the Irish Government was looking for a new Embassy to the
. The Villa Spada was perfect except it was well
over budget. Still, De Valera wanted it and with the assistance of some U.S
fundraising the Villa Spada was purchased in Vatican in February
1947. New York
Combining this historical significance, the huge Catholic influence over the Irish Government and the ‘great listening post’ arguments we have heard recently, one can see how important a role the embassy has played. And yet, these really are historic, almost sentimental arguments. There have been few greater steps towards secularism than Enda Kenny’s decision to close the embassy to the
. And surely that move is a good thing. Vatican
But there is one great loss and that is the loss of an embassy to a higher ideal. We had an embassy to a spiritual code, an embassy to a belief system if you like. At a time where our country is rapidly turning from a community into an economy, it is a shame to ditch that without replacing it with something else. We need an embassy to a higher value. We need an embassy to the arts, to culture, to the intellect. We need Ambassador Heaney to move to the Villa Spada. And we need it now.
And then, when the IMF threatens us with further humiliation we will write them a poem. The bonfire of the bond holders will be a huge tapestry by Louis Le Brocquy. The grey suits in one corner will be balanced by a startlingly yellow Basil Blackshaw in the far corner.
Villa Spada can lead us back to a time when a new poem by Derek Mahon was more important than anything Angela Merkal has said. Ever.
So let’s close the fridge door on cold cheap German beer and let a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano breathe a bit. Enjoy the colour and the nose and the rich complexities of its flavours. Take a long drink and drift away to the Villa Spada. Van Morrison is tuning up out in the warm evening sun on the veranda. It would be a shame to miss him.