Why no more Papal Ceremonial?


As I look at pictures of Pius XII and John XXIII, and then pictures of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I wonder to myself, why no more sedia gestatoria? Why no more fanon, or flabellum, no triple crown? Why had John Paul II and now Benedict XVI felt the need to do away with all the more, well, glorious aspects of the papacy?

I mean, there’s a difference between this,

and this,…



Well… when the Pope celebrates the Pontifical Solemn Mass- via the 1962 Missal- he must use the crown and must be carried in on the chair- you are going to see a huge return to tradition soon- when he celebrates the Mass using the Roman Missal 1962 edition.



Well I saw John Paul II celebrate the 1962 Missal and there was no Triple Tiara or Sedia Gestatoria.



I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that is Pope John Paul II celebrating the extraordinary rite but merely vested in a fiddleback.

The Pope has his own book of liturgical ceremonies known as the Caeremoniale Romanum. When he celebrated the full Papal Mass those prescriptions were observed. It is not always that the tiara must be worn-on some occasions the Pope can simply wear the precious mitre. I suppose he would be able to dispense with the tiara anyways since it is not the liturgical vestment- more like how the bishop would wear a cappa magna at a Pontifical High Mass before vesting.


Pope John Paul II never celebrated the 1962 Mass as Pope. As stated above, the picture shown–shortly after he became Pontifff–is merely with him wearing a fiddleback. These can be worn at any Mass.


After there investiture (corret term?), has anyone here seen a Cardinal wear his Red Hat?


Am I the only one who finds that second picture a bit… excessive? My anglican grandmother often complained about the Pope sitting there “with all his jewels”. I can sort of see what she meant…


If you mean the cardinal in his biretta, I have seen this many times in recent years.

Cardinal George of Chicago at Loyola commencement

Click on
to see Cardinal Egan of New York watching St. Patrick’s day parade.


No, I was referring to a broad-brimmed hat. I believe they are presented to new cardinals by the Pope. The only time I’ve see them is when they are hanging near the Cardinal’s seat in the sactuary of a cathedral. I do remember seeing Pope John Paul II pictured wearing this type of headgear,


I love to see the pope to wear the traditional papal vestments, the complete set (e.g. papal crown, papal staff not the bend crucifix), when he celebrates the traditional latin mass for the first time after 40 years of absence in the basilica on september.

Isn’t Paul VI abandoned the papal tiara and from there on the church moved away from traditional designs of clerical vestments to contemporary designs?

Can’t wait for that day!


Instaurare omnia in Christo


It’s not so much the Pope Paul VI “abandoned” the crown, he relinquished it at the ceremony ending Vatican II. He left the Chair of Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica and set the tiara on the altar. It was meant as a symbolic renoucement of human glory and power in keeping with the spirit of the Council. In keeping with that symbolism, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have also refused to wear one.

I believe Pope Paul’s tiara is now on display at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.


The changes in vestment styles came about more at a local level, and under the influence of church supply houses, who sell vestments. After WWII there had already begun a movement away from fiddlebacks and toward Gothic chasubles. Most parishes still had plenty of fiddlebacks right up until Vatican II, but, new vestments purchased were more likely to be traditional-looking gothic, rather than fiddleback, in style.

The liturgical reforms as experienced in most parishes caused the Mass to look quite different virtually overnight, and with that the church supply vultures came swooping down, pointing out the need for a modern-sounding and modern-looking liturgy to have modern-looking vestments. There quickly developed a great desire to shed fiddlebacks, which became associated with the “antiquated” Latin Mass. :banghead: This trend was initially more intense in America than in Europe, but eventually spread. Since most newer Gothic vestments were of inferior quality material and workmanship, they also cost less–a fact that was highlighted by the suppliers, wishing to tap into the egalitarian spirit that was in the air at the time. :love:

The changes to liturgical and non-liturgical pontificals came about in 1968, and that pretty much sealed the fate of fiddlebacks, until the indult came along. Now most suppliers sell them again, even if in limited numbers.:bowdown:


I like a bit of ceremony myself, but I think the triple tiara is rather ugly and I much prefer the symbolism of the mitre and pallium.

As for the flabellum - they originally had a most prosaic purpose - to keep the flies away.


Nope. GONE with Paul VI. :tissues:

As for the sedia, the tiara and other trappings, some consider them “glorious” while others consider them distractions from the pastoral task of the Papacy. A lot of that stuff spoke more of the temporal power of the Papacy than of the spiritual power.

This stuff can come and go; but Peter’s authority stands firm.


Yup. And frankly, if that thing had been mine, I would have given it away, too! Not that it’s ‘bad art’ it’s just that the art forms of the 1960s really don’t serve this sort of thing very well.



Aha! I was watching the Pope ordain some priests a few months ago, and as he laid his hands on one of them, he suddenly had to swat a fly off of his pallium. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


You know how St. Paul says to be all things to all men, in order to save them? I think that is the principle here. If something is causing scandal and is an obstacle to someone you are evangelizing, then it may be removed if possible.

Crowns and such in the past were symbols of authority from God–therefore, they were a great pastoral help as they reminded everyone of the Pope’s authority.

On the other hand, in recent times, probably unjustly, crowns and the like have become symbols of worldly glorying, hunger for power, and oppression.

The mitre, on the other hand, still has its meaning as authority from God, while not having all the negative baggage as the other things. I wish we still had all the previous pomp, but I can understand the reasoning as to why it was put aside.


I think the important elements of papal ceremony and garb should be preserved for tradition and as living history. But cultures change and so do the meanings of their icons. I’m glad the grandiose triple tiara is gone; hopefully for good.

Pope’s office should also allow for considered transition to let those things that convey negatives, or have lost all contemporary meaning except as objects of scorn and ridicule, to fade to the museums and archives where they belong. Face it; the Pope is probably the only Western man outside San Fransisco to wear red velvet shoes.

That most papal ceremonies are held in St Peter’s adds plenty of granduer. The richness of Pope’s traditional personal adornment may have conveyed the necessary image of authority in the 16th Century, but we now see men differently and his robes and vestments should recognize that it is the 21st Century.


I think that both the funeral of John Paul II and the installation of Benedict XVI were quite beautiful cermonies in keeping with the solemnities of the Church. I believe that Paul VI was correct in setting aside the crown and I believe that both JPII and BXVI were quite right to forgo coronations and hope too that future popes continue the trend.

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