Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Papal Mitres - part 3

Amongst the many remarkable features of Benedict XVI's Pontificate is the rather singular distinction of having used more mitres as Pope than all of his predecessors of the last 200 hundred years put together!  This is the third in a series of posts about those Papal mitres which I find pleasing, together with a description of them.

The mitres of Pope Benedict fall (almost) into two categories: those used during the tenure of Marini the First (Piero Marini) and those used during the tenure of Marini the Second (Guido Marini).

The third in our series, shewn above, is part of the Marini the First range and was worn on Ash Wednesday at the Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina in the years 2006 and 2007 and on three other occasions in those same years.  This mitre is a very inventive adaptation of the mediaeval mitre.  A similar mitre was used by Pope John Paul II.

As we know, the most common form of ornamentation for the mitre, as it developed in Tradition, was for a decorative band to be run around the crown of the head.  This band was called the circulus.  Another band extended at right angles to the circulus, forming an upside-down "T".  This vertical ornamentation was called the titulus.  Often, the circulus and titulus were lavishly embroidered.

Returning to the mitre of this post, it is made from a silver fabric and its circulus and titulus are formed from a beautifully-conceived cross-hatching of violet and silver braids, all done by hand.  The shape and height of the mitre are very well proportioned, according to the manner of the early mediaeval period and well-suited to the stature of its wearer, Pope Benedict.  The lining of the mitre is a beautiful light shade of violet.

On two of the afore-mentioned occasions, the Pope was given a cope to wear, matching the mitre (adjacent photographs).   Like the mitre, the cope's orphrey is formed from a  cross-hatching of violet and silver braids, on a silver background.  The decoration is beautiful and striking.  Unhappily the fabric of the cope is a glittery affair, metallic threads being interwoven with the violet ground fabric: quite unsuited to the Sacred Liturgy. A very ample chasuble (also shewn in an adjacent photograph) in a similar style was also used by Pope Benedict.  A similar chasuble and cope had been used in the latter years of the reign of Pope John Paul II.  From a distance, both chasuble and cope have a very fine appearance.

Ash Wednesday, 2006 at Santa Sabina.

One last thing must be commented on. The mitre under discussion presents a very attractive way of ornamenting a mitre for the Penitential Seasons: one recalls horrific examples of bishops wearing violet or purple mitres of the most tasteless variety. Nevertheless, the Ceremonial of Bishops appoints that on Ash Wednesday the simplex mitre is to be worn. It is noteworthy that upon becoming Papal Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini replaced the mitre featured in this post with a simplex mitre for subsequent celebrations of Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.