Four nuns in my passport collection

Nun Passport Collection
Wears the habit and glasses… is noted for distinctive characteristics

Collector’s always watching out for the unusual, the curiosities and even uniqueness of collectibles. Well, here I have something for you. The passport of a nun. To be more precise, four passports of nuns from my collection.

Even if you see four of such curious passports here, it took me years to get them together. Sometimes we can still find them, not often, and they always go quickly. Understandable, right?

All travel documents were issued during WWII, including two consular issues, one from Genoa and another from Santiago de Chile. Nun Passport Collection


Curiosity Nun Passport Collection

The passport, which was issued in Genoa on February 6, 1940, is a document of considerable historical significance, bearing the following typed label on one of its pages.

Nun Passport Collection
Entries of the German Consulate in Genoa



“This passport serves as a replacement for the original passport, which was lost in a fire aboard the Italian steamer ORAZIO on January 21, 1940. The bearer provided a convincing statement and was also listed on the official passenger manifest of the shipowner ITALIA. Before seeking an extension for this passport, we suggest reaching out to the Berlin police department for further guidance.” Genoa, 8 Feb, 1940, the Consul General. Nun Passport Collection

And further, handwritten…

“The passport holder is without any objections. She previously held a Polish passport issued by the former Polish Consulate.”



MS Orazio Nun Passport Collection

The MS Orazio, an Italian ocean liner hailing from the interwar period, was initially under the ownership of Navigazione Generale Italiana and later passed into the hands of the Italian Line. Tragically, her final chapter unfolded in a devastating fire off the coast of Toulon in January 1940, resulting in the loss of 108 lives.

Fourth most significant peacetime maritime disaster in Italian history

This catastrophe stands as the fourth most significant peacetime maritime disaster in Italian history, based on the number of lives lost, trailing behind the tragedies of Principessa Mafalda, Sirio, and Moby Prince. Unfortunately, its memory quickly faded from public consciousness as Italy found itself thrust into World War II just a few months later.

Jews escaping Europe Nun Passport Collection

On January 21, 1940, a few months after the outbreak of World War II, while Italy was still a neutral nation, the ship Orazio embarked from Genoa on a journey bound for Central America via Barcelona. On board were 645 passengers and crew, among them a significant number of Jewish refugees escaping the turmoil in Europe.

Tragedy struck at 5:12 on January 21 when an explosion in the engine room ignited a fire that rapidly engulfed the entire vessel. Several rescue ships rushed to the scene, including the Italian liners Colombo and Conte Biancamano, the Italian motor ship Cellina.

Also, the French destroyer Kersaint, the French auxiliary patrol vessel Ville d’Ajaccio, and the French merchant ships Djebel Dira, Djebel Nador, Governor General Cambon, Governor General Grevy, and Six Fours.

Unfavorable weather conditions made the rescue efforts challenging, but they managed to save 537 passengers and crew. The captain, Michele Schiano, was the last to leave the ship. See the ship’s wreck site and further details…

Loss of Lives

After evacuating all survivors, Orazio sank during the night of January 21-22, approximately forty miles southwest of Toulon. Tragically, 48 passengers and 60 crew members lost their lives, either in the fire or during the initial attempts to abandon the ship, including an incident where at least one lifeboat fell into the sea, resulting in fatalities among its occupants.

The Passport of a Titanic Survivor



incl. FREE guideline!

FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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