Saturday, 13 April 2013

Tiara of Pope Honorius III

Pope Honorius III.
In the Upper Church of the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi is painted a cycle of 28 frescoes, known as The Legend of Saint Francis. They were painted between1297-1300. These frescoes tradition has  attributed to Giotto de Bondone or at the least, the credit for having designed them.

One of the frescoes, a detail of which is shewn above is a scene where Saint Francis is preaching a homily in the presence of Pope Honorius III (reigned 1216-1227).  This has recently caught our eye, during research into the Papal tiara, which was the subject of a previous post.

Below is the much-disliked triple tiara of Pope Paul VI, made of platinum and gold and presented to Paul by the Faithful of his former archdiocese, Milan, in 1963. It is certain that Pope Paul oversaw the design of his triple tiara, but until now the striking similarity between it and the tiara of Pope Honorius III has not been discussed, so far as we are aware. Whilst the Paul VI tiara is entirely metallic, that of Honorius would have been made from silk or velvet, which was embroidered and over which a single crown was placed.  Next time someone denounces the "bullet tiara" or the "space age tiara" of Pope Paul, you can refer them to these images.

Triple tiara of Pope Paul VI :
intended as a replica of the Giotto tiara?
We might also comment on the vestments worn by Pope Honorius. This fresco was painted 70 years after Honorius' death, so it is not intended that the fresco depicted his actual vestments, but rather the style of vestments worn by a bishop at the very end of the Thirteenth century. The visible vestments are the amice, alb, dalmatic, chasuble and the pallium.

Not much of the albe is visible, except its close-fitting sleeves. The amice is voluminous and worn in the style of a thrown-back hood. The pontifical dalmatic is made from an especially rich brocaded silk, its woven pattern being reminiscent of Cosmati tile work or forms of ornament pre-dating the Gothic style; it also has apparels attached to its lower edge and to its cuffs. Interestingly, the artist presents a simpler red chasuble, in the semi-conical form, lined in blue and ornamented subtly with an embroidered orphrey in red and gold.

Most notable is the older and noble form of the pallium, which is highly visible. Contrast this with the mean affair presently used by the Bishop of Rome, a mere shadow of the ancient form. Because of its size, this more ancient form of pallium becomes the principal ornament of the chasuble and a worthy symbol of the Petrine Office. We can hope for its return to Papal Liturgies.

The fresco in the Upper Church at Assisi.