Saturday, June 11, 2016

New Papal Tiara for the reigning Pontiff, Pope Francis

These are some images of the papal tiara gifted this past month to Pope Francis, by the President of the Macedonian Parliament.
The New Papal Tiara presented to Pope Francis in The Vatican by the President of the Macedonian Parliament.
Trajko Veljanoski presenting the new papal tiara to Pope Francis

Historically, most popes, except the two John Pauls, have been gifted one such headdress.  It was used on the most solemn of occasions instead of the mitre worn by the rest of the western bishops.

It is to the east where we must look to understand the ovoid triple crown that came to be known as a papal tiara.

It developed form the camelaucum which was worn by the Roman Emperors after the move to Constantinople.  Eventually, it became the privilege of the bishops to wear these court-caps and with time, in the east, they became the more or less bulbous mitres worn to this day by those of the episcopal rank.

In the west, it took two routes. The first is the "camauro" or soft velvet cap that was worn by the pope instead of the heavier hat with three crowns.

Saint John XXIII wearing red velvet camauro and Easter-tideWhite Mozetta when Pope

The Triregno is the second version, though in the beginning it had just one crown.  That first crown  was because the pope of Rome, unlike the other christian bishops, is a theocratic monarch - meaning, he rules over a piece of sovereign territory besides being a bishop. Once, he held sovereign power over the so called "Papal States" -  reduced since the last century to just The Vatican City-State.

The other two crowns were accrued because the Roman Pontiff, as successor of Saint Peter, and Vicar of Christ, is supposed to outrank all other princes of the earth.  He is not the only monarch to have assumed double or triple crowns though... just the only one that outlived the others (more about this at another date).

The three crowns were supposed to signify his holiness on earth, purgatory, and heaven. Crowns, since ancient times, are symbolic of the rewards offered at a triumph.  Virgins, martyrs, and saints in general, used to be depicted either with a crown on their head or held in their hands as reward for their holy earthly lives.

But back to the Eastern roots of the papal triregno, we may see how it is worn by the Pope when celebrating with his eastern brothers in Christ.  

So - is it so damning for a Pope to wear a tiara these days?  Some are rather focused on the political implications and the "message" as if the pope were just one more politician - forgetting, perhaps, the historical link that one piece of stiffened hat has with the other half of the church we, in the west, so readily dismiss in our own zeal.

The pope is not supposed to be the Vicar of Christ for the west - but for the world (according to the doctrines which were adopted in the beginning of the second millennium and alienated the Eastern half of the church).  Accordingly, he'd do well in retaining those ancient traditions which maintain the link with the rest.  The papal tiara, is one such link - albeit the second and third crowns on it may constitute a break with the first one thousand years of tradition and history of the Church, and may be worth revising in an act of charity and humility as the last popes have attempted in refusing to wear the headdress, yet breaking with the tradition of wearing it being a disservice to History...  Chanting the Gospels in Latin and Greek during the papal liturgies, is another one of such traditions, as Latin is only the first vernacular that the bible was translated into after the original Greek and Aramaic.  In the Papal liturgies, it was traditional to maintain that memory before such lasting links to the past have too been left to be forgotten.

The tiara gifted to Pope Francis is not made of precious stones and gold as for his predecessors, but like the mitres of the eastern-rite bishops: of stiffened cloth, embroideries and pearls.  The arms of the Pope embroidered or painted on the lapets, in strange contrast and weird compromise, instead of a tiara has a western mitre - yet with three bands symbolic of the three crowns.  It dissatisfies tradition of the church before the schism, the schismatic orthodox, and also the advocates of the Roman Rite who defend the doctrine of papal supremacy, etc.   The mitre with the triple bands has precedent in a grant to the once Patriarch of Lisbon... but misses the point of the hermeneutics of tradition in its attempt to appease and please... who?