Tuesday 12 March 2013

Papal Retrospective: The Triple Tiara

On the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (22nd February) and the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29th June) the famous statue of Saint Peter in the Vatican Basilica is adorned with specially-made vestments: amice, albe, cincture, stole and cope.  On Saint Peter's head is placed the Triregno, the Triple Tiara, the ceremonial headdress of the Roman Pontiff. Imagine the reaction if it were decreed that the statue may no longer wear the triple tiara, but had to wear a mitre?  That would be an example of ideology and political correctness triumphing over Tradition.

In our age, for a Pope to appear regularly wearing the triple tiara, would probably not be a symbol that the Church, still less the world, would warm to.  Even so, the complete abandonment of this tradition seems a pity. It would be quite feasible and acceptable for the Pope to be crowned in the Sistine Chapel before the College of Cardinals and Papal Court; he need never use the triple tiara again. There is no requirement that the Coronation of a Pope be a public event, covered greedily by the media. It could all be done privately and without ostentation. But the tradition of a Pope being crowned would remain. If this has occurred to me, would it not have occurred to others in the Vatican? If so, perhaps one day it might happen that way, not in March 2013, admittedly.

In this post, we will not trace the history of the triple tiara: that will be the subject of a future post. Instead, this a photographic post of those triple tiaras which still are in existence. 

Triple tiara of Pope Pius VII from the year 1800
It was made from papier mache but
encrusted with precious stones and pearls.
Pope Benedict XV had these stripped
from the tiara as a donation to the care
of wounded in World War One.
Twenty-four are known to exist and of this number I have been able to find photographs of sixteen. There were, of course, many more mediaeval tiaras, but during the sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII had all the papal tiaras and other regalia stripped of jewels, broken up, and melted down for the gold to prevent their capture by the forces of Emperor Charles V. Then in the late 18th century, Revolutionary France set out to eliminate the Papal government and Bonaparte began waging war against the Papal States. The Pope lost temporal sovereignty, and lacking sufficient funds, payed the assessed war debt from its fortune in papal tiaras, jewelry, and works of art. In 1798, Bonaparte's forces entered Rome itself, capturing and imprisoning the pope, and plundering the churches of any remaining treasure. 

It is thought that nearly thirty papal tiaras have existed since 1800, but several have apparently never been on public view, so little is known about them.  Only one seems to have escaped the greed of Bonaparte:  it is the tiara which is placed on the head of Saint Peter's statue each year (shewn below). 

Triple Tiara used on the Statue of Saint Peter (16th or 18th century).

Triple Tiara presented to Pope Pius VII
by Bonaparte in 1805.

Tiara of gold made in 1835 for Pope Gregory XVI.

Triple tiara presented to Pope Pius IX in 1854 by Queen Isabella II of Spain.
This tiara was used when Pope Pius defined the doctrine of the
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Another tiara of Pope Pius IX.
This tiara is now displayed in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Indiana USA.

Presented to Pope Pius IX in 1877
by the Vatican's Palatine Guard.

Most glorious of them all: the Triple Tiara in the Gothic Revival style
presented to Pope Pius IX in 1871 by the Ladies of the Belgian Court.

Another splendid tiara in the neo-Gothic style.
Presented to  Pope Leo XIII by the Catholics of Paris in 1887.

Triple Tiara presented to Pope Leo XIII in 1903
by the Catholics of Bologna.

Triple Tiara presented to Pope Pius XI in 1922
by the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Milan.

Triple Tiara presented to Pope John XXIII in 1959
by the Faithful of the Bergamo district of Italy.

Triple Tiara said to have belonged to Pope John XXIII
but now in a private collection.

The distinctive Triple Tiara of Pope Paul VI
made by artisans of the Archdiocese of Milan to the Pope's own design.
It is now on display in Washington DC.

Triple Tiara presented to Pope John Paul II by the
People of Hungary in 1981, but never used by him.

Triple Tiara presented to Pope Benedict XVI by a group
of European Catholics in 2011, but never used by him.