In 1800, Pope Pius VII assumed leadership of the Catholic Church in an unprecedented way — he rolled there. For the first time in the history of the church, the pope-elect came by carriage, not on horseback, to Vatican City. Since then, popes have employed all sorts of four-wheeled vehicles to get from place to place.
Below are 32 of those vehicles — some mammoth, others miniature.
Some similarities: Many of the cars display the S.C.V.-1 license plate, a Vatican City State tag reserved for the pontiff. Most are emblazoned with the papal seal of the pope aboard.
[What Pope Francis will do during his trip to Washington, New York and Philadelphia]
About a third come from luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz, but papal rides have been outfitted by local truck and car manufacturers, asked to design and deliver the vehicle in mere weeks. The Vatican almost always includes one request: provide high visibility for the pontiff to be seen by the crowds gathered for his blessing.
After an assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981, security concerns became a major driver in popemobile design. Several features now familiar to many, such as the bulletproof-glass-enclosed “pope box” design, became standard. You won’t see any enclosed cars on Francis’s visit to the United States, though. For this week’s trip, the pope has shunned what he calls a “sardine can” design in favor of an open-sided Jeep Wrangler.