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The Pope wears sacred vestments that carry symbols—rich with meaning and significance—that are rooted in the centuries-old tradition of the Holy See. Even as they convey his ecclesiastical authority as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, these vestments also bear the personal stamp of each Pope.

Papal Coat of Arms

Papal coat of arms are the personal heraldry of Popes that bear them. Since the late Middle Ages, Popes have displayed their coat of arms, replete with symbols and insignias that pertain to their personal backgrounds. It is customary to mark the work of the Pontiff with his coat of arms, and as such, they appear on buildings, publications, papal decrees, and documents.

Papal Tiara and Crossed Keys[1]

 Coat_of_arms_Holy_See.svg

The “Triregnum with crossed keys,” the pontifical insignia on a red shield, is the official coat of arms of the Holy See. The crossed keys of St. Peter and the Papal Tiara are always part of the achievement of the coat of arms of the reigning Pope. The three crowns in the Papal Tiara symbolize the triple power of the Pope: Father of Princes and Kings, Rector of the World, and the Vicar of Christ. The crossed keys represent the keys of Simon Peter, the keys to heaven and earth. The red shield signifies that the Pope must be ready for martyrdom like St. Peter.

The coat of arms of Blessed Pope Paul VI[2]

2000px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Pope_Paul_VI.svg copy

The coat of arms of the Blessed Pope Paul VI has three fleur-de-lis on a red shield and six small hills at the bottom, his family insignia. The six small hills are a play on his family name, Montini, which means “little mountains” in Italian.

The coat of arms of Saint Pope John Paul II[3]

john paul ii coat of arms

Saint Pope John Paul II’s coat of arms has the yellow cross on blue background, symbolizing Christ’s work in the mystery of redemption, and a letter M beneath it, signifying the presence of Mary and her participation in redemption.

The coat of arms of Pope Francis[4]

Insigne_Francisci

Pope Francis’ coat of arms contain the insignia of the Society of Jesus, his priestly order, the star of Mary, and the spikenard, a symbol of St. Joseph. Pope Francis is the second Pope following Pope Benedict XVI to have dispensed with the Papal Tiara over his coat of arms and instead preferred a papal mitre above the shield.

The motto “Miserando atque eligendo” means lowly but chosen; literally in Latin “by having mercy, by choosing him.” This was derived from the homily of the Venerable Bede on Matthew’s Gospel, relating to his vocation: “Jesus saw the tax collector and by having mercy chose him as an Apostle saying to him: Follow me.”[5] This incorporation of a motto is unique in this papal coat of arms.

Papal Vesture

PAPAL-VESTMENTS

  1. Papal Tiara – Also called the Triregnum, it has not been worn by Popes since Pope Paul VI’s coronation.[6] Popes John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have declined a coronation, preferring a ceremony of inauguration. The Papal Tiara, however, remains the symbol of the Papacy, as seen in the papal coat of arms and on the state flag of Vatican City.[7]
  2. Zucchetto or Calotte – A closely fitting skullcap, saucer-shaped, in color white, red, violet or black, suitable to the rank of the wearer. The Pope can use any color of the zucchetto, but the color white has been preferred for Pontiffs, due to the white cassocks they usually wear. It is always worn under the mitre or the biretta, but can be worn without them[8].
  3. Mitre – A tall folding cap consisting of two similar parts (the front and back) rising to a peak and sewn together at the sides. The color is always white, but rich adornment is permitted. It is also worn over the zuchetto. Despite the liturgical significance of this head cap as an emblem of episcopal rank, the common usage was abolished by Pope Paul VI. Currently, only the archdiocese and diocese arms are permitted to use the mitre.[9] However, in a break with tradition, Pope Benedict XVI used it in his coat of arms instead of the Triregnum—a feature that Pope Francis retained in his own coat of arms.
  4. Biretta – A square ecclesiastical cap that is worn over the zuchetto. From the top of the cap rise either three or four horns. It replaced the cappello romano in 1969. [10]. The pope has never made use of the biretta, but he grants it to new cardinals for everyday wear.
  5. Cappello Romano – The wide-brimmed pontifical hat with a derby-like brim worn by Popes prior to 1969.[11] The cappello was abolished as part of the creation of cardinals by Pope Paul VI but is still used in heraldry.
  6. Cloth – Only the Pope may make use of velvet in his ecclesiastical vesture. The Pope and cardinals could wear a specially processed silk known as moire, while all ranks of the clergy can use a silk-like fabric called faille.[12] Pope Francis has stopped using wool and only uses linen, a break from tradition.
  7. Roman Collar and Rabat – At present, the collar is usually made of white plastic acetate or starched linen. It is three inches wide collar unto the rabat for use under the cassock or the simar. The rabbi is the section of cloth that stiffens at the top and that is molded to rest fit round the neck. The Pope uses a white rabbi, which can either be silk broadcloth[13].
  8. Simar – Described as a cassock with a shoulder cape, but technically not a cassock at all. It has an elbow-length shoulder cape which does not meet in the front, thus exposing the buttons from the collar to the toes. The simar is always in color black, which is lined, piped, and trimmed in the color of the rank of the prelate. The same goes with the winter simar, which is in white, which gave it the appearance of ecru or light beige against the pure white silk sash. Pope Francis had his simar made in linen.[14] All trim, buttons, and piping are raw watered silk (moire), as are the cuffs on the sleeves. The fascia of the Pope is of white moire silk and always includes the papal coat of arms.[15]
  9. Pallium – A woven narrow band decorated with six black crosses, reserved to the Pope, and to archbishops with Vatican approval.[16] The cloak symbolizes the Pope’s universal authority.[17] Pope Francis restored the use of the old pallium with black crosses. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI and a dozen popes before him, had their pallium with six red crosses.[18]
  10. Pectoral Cross – Typically made of gold and adorned with precious gems and jewels; the pectoral cross symbolizes papal prestige and power.[19] Pope Francis’ pectoral cross breaks tradition, as it is in silver and without a single precious stone; it depicts a simply dressed and barefoot shepherd Jesus, symbolizing the Pontiff’s desire to become the shepherd of the poor.[20] [21]
  11. Papal Cape – The red papal cape, which is meant to signify the dual identity of the Pope as “a royal Priest and Imperial Bishop.” Pope Francis was offered the red cape trimmed with ermine minutes after he was elected, but refused to wear it[22].
  12. Alb – A long white linen liturgical vestment with thin sleeves used only during Holy Mass. It symbolizes purity and innocence of the soul.[23]
  13. Stole – A strip of material two to four inches wide and eighty inches long, used not only by the Pope in liturgy but by the clergy as well. It is worn around the neck with the ends hanging down at the front. The Pope kisses the stole before putting it on.[24]
  14. Chasuble – Otherwise known as the “casula.” This is derived from a poncho-like cloak or protective garb of a farmer or a worker in 300 BCE. It was only in the 3rd century that the chasuble was identified as a sacred vestment reserved for priests and bishops. The present-day casula is ample in cut and long at the sleeves, and is mostly made of silk, with gold threads all throughout.[25] The pallium is worn over the chasuble when celebrating Mass.
  15. Cassock – A Roman cassock is a one-piece bell-shaped garb fronted by buttons from the collar to the toes. It is a full-cut, loose-fitting garment with purple, amaranth-red, or scarlet buttons, piping and trim for various ranks of the prelature. Traditionally, this is closed with a series of buttons, specifically 33 buttons symbolizing the 33 earthly days of Jesus Christ. The French-cut cassock is more formal than the Roman cassock. It makes use of three inverted pleats, one at the center rear and one each on the hips. At the top of each pleat is an embroidered inverted triangle or dart. It is more tapered and its bottom is less bell-shaped and more tubular. This type places additional five buttons symbolizing the five wounds of Jesus Christ. The cuffs are approximately 6 inches in length, with a space between the cuff and the sleeve. In terms of color, the buttons, trim, and inside hem are purple for the Pope and amaranth red for other members of the prelate.[26]
  16. Fascia – Commonly known as the sash or the cincture. At present, there are five colors for the fascia: white (watered silk for the pontiff, cloth for religious habits), scarlet (watered silk for cardinals), violet (silk for patriarchs, primates and archbishops, and prelates of honor), purple (chaplains of the Pope), and black for priest and seminarians. The Pontiff and the cardinals make use of a sash wider than that of all the other prelates and priests. It is acceptable for their sash to be as wide as 10 inches, but an eight-inch sash is most common.[27]
  17. The Fisherman’s Ring – The papal ring, depicts the image of St. Peter casting his fishnet into the sea. Each Pope has had his own unique ring, which is destroyed in the presence of the Sacred College at the Pope’s death.[28] [29] Only Pope Francis wears a silver ring with a recycled design made by Italian sculptor Enrico Manfrini for Pope Paul VI.
  18. Crosier – The papal pastoral staff. It is the senior ecclesiastical insignia that symbolizes the pastoral authority of bishops. The Pope need not carry a crosier all the time, but he carries one with varying designs of the image of Christ on certain occasions.[30]
  19. Mozzeta – The short cape that completely encircles the prelate. This cape is elbow-length, with a cassock style upright collar. It is closed in front by a row of twelve silk-covered buttons[31].
  20. Papal shoes – Shoes are worn by the Pope outdoors. Previous Popes wore red shoes. Initially, Pope John Paul II wore them red, but later on switched to ordinary brown ones. Pope Francis broke tradition again, preferring to wear black shoes.[32]
Bibliography

Noonan Jr., James-Charles. The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church. New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012.

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Endnotes

[1] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 161.

[2] Ibid., 184b.

[3] Ibid., 184b.

[4] “The Coat of Arms of Pope Francis”, Pope Francis website, retrieved on 8 January 2015 http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/elezione/stemma-papa-francesco.html

[5] “The Coat of Arms of Pope Francis”, Pope Francis website, retrieved on 8 January 2015 http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/elezione/stemma-papa-francesco.html

[6] ____, “Tiara”, The Holy See Press Office, retrieved on 8 January 2015 from http://www.vatican.va/news_services/press/documentazione/documents/sp_ss_scv/insigne/triregno_en.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012),271.

[9] Ibid., 151.

[10] Ibid., 265.

[11] Ibid., 301-302.

[12] Ibid., p. 249.

[13] Ibid., p. 263- 264.

[14] http://southernorderspage.blogspot.com/2013/07/has-pope-francis-modified-papal-cassock.html

[15] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 257 – 258.

[16] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11427a.htm

[17] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 29.

[18] Cindy Wooden, “Parsing the Pope’s Pallium,” from Catholic News Service. Retrieved from https://cnsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/parsing-the-popes-pallium/

[19] Close up view of Pope Francis’ Pectoral Cross. From Catholic Faith Store. Retrieved from http://blog.catholicfaithstore.com/blog/2014/07/31/pope-francis-pectoral-cross/

[20] Ron Gagne, M.S., “Pope Francis’ Pectoral Cross,” from La Salette. Retrieved from http://www.lasalette.org/reflections/1095-pope-francis-s-pectoral-cross.html

[21] http://blog.catholicfaithstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/pectoral-cross.jpg

[22] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 318-319.

[23] ___, “Roman Catholic Vestments,” from The Catholic Doors Ministry. Retrieved from http://www.catholicdoors.com/courses/roman.htm

[24] ___, “Stole,” from The New Advent website. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14301a.htm

[25] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 315.

[26] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 251- 256.

[27] Ibid., 259-260.

[28] Ibid., 324.

[29] ___, “Fisherman’s Ring,” Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. Accessed on January 10, 2014, from http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2013/documents/ns_lit_doc_20130319_anello-pescatore-bergoglio_en.html

[30] James-Charles Noonan Jr., The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2012), p. 333.

[31] Ibid., 275- 277.

[32] “Papal Shoes”, Vatican, access on 12 January 2015 from http://vatican.com/articles/popes/the_papal_shoes-a77