While he was still making his second prototype, Paul de Livron began to think about the next wheelchair he would make: it would be good if it were very different from the first 2, to show that the same manufacturing technique can be used to make wheelchairs of various models; it would also be good if this third wheelchair were for someone who, by using it, would give visibility to the Apollo project, which would speed up its development; and it would be good if this third wheelchair were financed by outside funds to help support the development of the Apollo project.
Paul has found the ideal beneficiary : Pope Francis.
Pope Francis uses a wheelchair every day. It is an entry-level model with no particular comfort or aesthetic appeal.
Paul imagined a wheelchair made specifically for Pope Francis, and he thought it would be possible to incorporate elements of wood from the burnt-out medieval framework of Notre-Dame de Paris into the wheelchair.
He presented his project to the relevant authorities and was finally invited to meet the Pope to make a request: to agree to be the patron of the Apollo project by receiving his own wheelchair.
In May 2023, he presented Pope Francis with a model of the wheelchair he intended to build for him, and Pope Francis accepted the sponsorship offer.
Paul was then given pieces of charred oak beams left over from the fire on the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris to carve into the armrests of the papal wheelchair.
Paul has set up an Ulule crowdfunding campaign to sell Pope Francis’ wheelchair to anyone wishing to support his project. This page can still be accessed by following this link. It contains an in-depth presentation of the wheelchair project for Pope Francis.
Paul finally completed Pope Francis’ wheelchair in September 2023, in time for it to be presented to him when he visits Marseille on 22 and 23 September 2023.
Pope Francis’ wooden wheelchair incorporates many symbols, including :
– the armrests are carved from elements of the medieval framework of ND de Paris that survived the fire in 2019. The trees from which the wood was cut were contemporary with Saint Francis of Assisi, the Pope’s patron saint (12th century) ;
– the rest of the chair is made from wood from Russia and Ukraine ;
– the footrest features a dove of peace ;
– the cross on the backrest is a mathematical equation ;
– the armchair contains a relic of a young blessed man, Carlo Acutis, a medal from the rue du Bac in Paris and the list of over 800 contributors to the Ulule crowdfunding ;
– the back cushion is surrounded by a ribbon with traditional motifs from Argentina, Pope Francis’ country of origin.
Pope Francis’ wooden wheelchair is now in the Vatican. Here are a few more images of the details of this wheelchair :