Paul de Livron, 31, an engineer by training and a paraplegic, has designed a wooden wheelchair which he is preparing to offer to Pope Francis when he comes to Marseille on September 22 and 23. A unique and highly symbolic armchair.
On May 5, 2022, Pope Francis appeared in public for the first time in a wheelchair , because of his knee pain. A change which did not escape Paul de Livron, 31, who himself uses a wheelchair permanently following a fall in the creeks in Marseille, which occurred ten years ago and who made him paraplegic. But Paul is shocked by this vision of the Pope in a wheelchair. “His chair is neither beautiful nor comfortable! He looks like a little old man in a retirement home, even though he is the head of the Catholic Church, one of the most influential people on the planet, and he is far from retired. ! “, he confides to Aleteia.
Never mind ! Paul, who had to give up his dream of becoming a forestry engineer, has not lost his passion for wood nor his manual skills. And he has real expertise: in March 2022, he launched into the manufacture of wooden wheelchairs and created his company “ Apollo Wooden Wheelchairs“. He developed an innovative manufacturing technique that makes it possible to make chairs from wood, a material that had not been used for medical equipment for nearly a century. The secret ? Hollowed out wooden strips (a guarantee of lightness), cut out and then glued to each other. “The new thing is above all to think about the manufacture of my armchairs by assembling layers in the manner of 3D printing rather than by assembling elements placed end to end, as was the case for the armchairs wooden wheelchairs in the past and as is still the case for metal chairs today,” he explains.
Stephen of Livron
In addition to the technical prowess, this armchair, with its very designer, refined and warm style, has a “super power”: “Its aesthetic aspect changes the way others look at it, it makes you feel better about yourself,” says Paul, who experienced it in the streets of Paris. “My wooden armchair was a huge success with passers-by! “, he remembers.
Harold Passini I SOXH Factory
A success in Paris, but also online. Paul shares a video on LinkedIn in October 2022 which, in a few days, generates thousands of views and numerous contacts. He makes a second, even more efficient chair for himself, then needs a new challenge. Which does not take long to take shape at the sight of the Pope in his armchair. His third work will be… for the Pope!
An armchair for the Pope
Do not invent yourself as a supplier to the Pope whoever wants. Paul benefited from serious support from priests who were enthusiastic about his project. The first introduced him to the apostolic nuncio in France, Mgr Migliore. The question was whether the Pope appreciated the surprise gifts or whether it was better to warn him… Paul learns that it is better to warn him. He then went to Rome and, on May 3, 2023, at the end of a general audience, coached by Cardinal Parolin who was informed of his project, he confided to Pope Francis his desire to create wheelchairs for the most modest and to offer him an armchair worthy of his function.
Paul de Livron
He gives him a model, offering to sponsor his project. “The Pope took the model in his hands, played with the wheels for a few moments, like a child, then he smiled and said: ‘I accept. Who should I contact?’ »
Armrests in Notre-Dame wood
This was not Paul’s first challenge. Because as soon as he had the idea of offering a chair to the Pope, he tried to give it meaning. How ? By integrating wood rescued from the framework of Notre-Dame Cathedral! It was not an easy thing to be entrusted with two pieces of charred wood, extracted from the fire that ravaged Notre-Dame on April 15, 2019. But here again, Paul found support. A Parisian priest encouraged him to seek help from Mgr Ulrich, the Archbishop of Paris. “After an hour of interview, the archbishop said he would try to help me, and later, General Georgelin contacted me. He had managed to obtain the quantity of wood necessary to make the two armrests. »
Paul de Livron
Two pieces which come from the beams of the cathedral frame. For Paul, they are “contemporary with the time of Saint Francis of Assisi , under whose protection the pope placed his pontificate”, as well as a symbol of resilience. “From an old material that has become unusable, we obtain an essential element for a new type of medical equipment,” he explains.
A dove on the footstool and a relic of Carlo Acutis
A question that has bothered Paul for a long time: what should the footrest represent? It will be a dove , to reinforce the Pope in his mission to promote peace between peoples. Not to mention that the birch plywood used for the armchair was partly manufactured in Russia, and partly in Ukraine… The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, is represented by Paul haloed by seven rays symbolizing the seven gifts and the horizon on either side.
Paul de Livron
On the backrest is carved in the wood a large stylized cross.
Paul de Livron
Another strong gesture, Paul plans to insert in the chair, alongside the list of contributors to the project, a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis which was entrusted to him last May, in Assisi, after his meeting with the Pope. A young figure of holiness, “geek like him”, who marked him in his way of offering all his sufferings for the Pope and for the Church.
Paul de Livron
The handing over of the chair to the Pope in Marseille will be done discreetly. The chair will be entrusted to the Pope’s team and not to Francis directly. A relief for Paul who would have been “anguished at the idea of seeing the Pope try his chair in front of him”, but who will nevertheless have the honor of a personal greeting at the end of the mass at the Vélodrome . If it is not planned that the Pope will use the chair in Marseille, the fact remains that all the people who followed or contributed to the project will religiously spy on the Pope’s next outings!
With the authorization of Paul de Livron
“The Lord is planning great things”
Even today, Paul is carried by a word received during a healing prayer at the Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs church, in Paris, in November 2019. “I was hidden at the back of the church, and I received a word of knowledge. She said: ‘The Lord is preparing great things for a paraplegic person.’ » A word that went straight to his heart. “It did me so much good, it is an engine of hope even today, and it reinforced my choice to make myself available to God’s plans for me,” he confides.
And there is no shortage of projects. A few months later, he flew to Calcutta to join the Missionaries of Charity. A trip that shocked him: “I was in my super chair, which allowed me to travel to the other side of the world, and I was confronted with my colleagues in the dispensary who did not have their own chair! “. It was from this experience that the project was born to design beautiful, comfortable and inexpensive wooden armchairs.