Kansas City is known for its long tradition of Jazz music, its distinctive style of barbecue, and a rich cultural heritage. What you probably didn’t know about Kansas City however, is that it’s also where one can find the bed used by John Paul II aboard the papal airplane.
Serving for decades as an orphanage, the Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center in Kansas City is now home to the air travel bed of JPII. On the second floor of the museum, one can find the late pontiff’s bed, linens, and assorted travel accessories behind glass.
The bed was originally part of a TWA plane commissioned by the Vatican for use as John Paul II’s papal plane in the late 1970’s. The bed featured a specially designed belt to ensure his safety while he rested.
John Paul II used the bed on three separate occasions when he visited the United States: 1979, 1987, and 1995. Museum curator Adrienne Nastav says the bed is low to the floor and relatively modest:
“The pope was not as tall as people think he was. It’s not a big bed. It had to have fit into the confines of the airplane.”
So how did the late pontiff’s mattress end up in Kansas City? After his final trip, Trans World Airlines stored it in a facility in Kansas City. When the museum moved into its current building at Strawberry Hill in 1988 Father John Hortat lobbied to relocate the bed from the TWA facility because of the neighborhood’s strong Polish and multicultural history.
“Pope John Paul was Polish, as Polish as anybody could be. The museum thought it would be a great exhibit representing the Polish people.”
When John Paul II was canonized in 2014, his former bed became considered a second class relic as they were the belongings of a saint. While the museum curator doesn’t wash the linens, he makes the bed yearly and maintains the room.
“The linens have not been washed. So if they do, we lose the value of them. I’m Polish. The honor of having Pope John Paul II … it’s just indescribable. I’m really blessed.”