Pope Francis gave the Philippines’ President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III an incredibly rare item as a gift during his visit to the Malacañang Palace on January 16 — a Nautical Atlas, dated 1562, taken from deep in the Vatican Library’s collection.
According to a statement from the Vatican Press Office, the atlas was one of only 50 remaining copies in the entire world, and chartered the globe as it was known in the 16th century through 14 nautical maps in color on parchment. The original atlas, which can be attributed to Majorcan cartographer Bartolome Oliva, dates to 1562, and was purchased by the Vatican in 1657.
“Today, this map would be nearly priceless for those who collect nautical treasures. Think about what kind of cutting edge technology and topography this might have stood for,” said Scott Tucker, owner of Nautical Decor Store. “One might wonder who may have flipped through it’s pages, or one of the 50 copies of its kind. Very intriguing indeed.”
The pope was not the only gift giver in attendance, either. President Aquino gave Pope Francis a sculpture of Mary, Undoer of Knots, in commemoration of his five day visit to the Philippines. Mary, Undoer of Knots, is a Marian devotion, which is to say it is an expression of piety directed towards the Blessed Virgin Mary. The sculpture was carved by Fred Baldemor of Paeta, Laguna from a 100-year-old acacia tree that the typhoon Glenda felled in July 2014.
President Aquino also gave the pontiff two commemorative coins bearing his image.
However, the Pope did not head to the Philippines for a gift exchange, but rather to encourage the predominantly Catholic country, which is about to mark the 500th anniversary of the proclamation of the Gospel, to use its strong religious heritage as a force for good.
In a statement at the palace, Pope Francis said, “It is my hope that this important anniversary will point to its continuing fruitfulness and its potential to inspire a society worthy of the goodness, dignity and aspirations of the Filipino people.”