Alumna Amanda (Dirksen) Catanzaro '09 designs custom bicycle for Pope Francis

Alumna Amanda (Dirksen) Catanzaro '09 designs custom bicycle for Pope Francis

Bike given to the pope as a gift from the city of Philadelphia

Studio art alumna Amanda (Dirksen) Catanzaro '09 recently had an opportunity most people can only imagine: creating custom graphics for a bike given to Pope Francis as an official gift from her home city. As creative manager for Advanced Sports International, a Philadelphia-based company that manufactures, markets and distributes seven brands of bicycles and components, Catanzaro was asked to design graphics on a Breezer Downtown 8 model commuter bike for the pope in honor of his visit to the city of brotherly love.

The bike is among three official gifts given to the pope by the city of Philadelphia in honor of his historic first visit to the United States. The idea to choose a bike was inspired by the pope's humanitarian work and his interest in environmental responsibility.

Catanzaro had two weeks to research and create the artwork for the bike. As a product designer for her company, and a Christian, the opportunity was perfect way for her to combine her artistic talent and her Christian faith.

"My boss knew I was a Christian and approached me about designing the bike, thinking it would be a great opportunity for me," said Catanzaro. "I of course accepted and was honored. The chance to meld art and faith together was particularly meaningful."

To begin the design process, Catanzaro first researched the pope, learning more about his mission, his faith, what he stands for and how he is different from other popes. From there, she had the challenging task of narrowing her designs to ones that spoke most to Pope Francis. Each design element is a thoughtful interpretation of a particular cause or idea meaningful to the pope and his visit. Click to the right to see a full gallery of the images and descriptions.

After creating the designs, her artwork was sent to a Toronto-based painter who hand-painted all the intricate details.

A prominent feature of the bike is the chain guard, shaped like a wing. "I wanted an element on the bike that represented the spiritual aspect that is central to the pope's life and career," said Catanzaro. "It is my hope for him that as he continues to travel and teach that he will be bolstered by his faith, that he will experience the security and strength that comes from leaning on God as referenced in Isaiah 40:31."

Catanzaro worked with the company Carl & Rose who fabricated the aluminum chain guard and created a brass replica of the pope"s crest, also displayed prominently on the bike.

The bike was presented to pope representative Archbishop Charles Chaput by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in a commemorative ceremony earlier this week. There, Catanzaro got to answer questions about the design and close out an experience that has been nothing less than surreal to her.

"[How it felt to work on this bike] is a hard feeling to sum up," said Catanzaro. "In the grand scheme of things, I don't know why I was chosen or how this came about to me, but I feel totally humbled by the opportunity. It's a complete honor."

-Written by Erin Bray '10

Catanzaro with Mayor Michael Nutter

Want to learn more?

View the details of Catanzaro's designs in the gallery below.
Design photo gallery