Papal Regalia

I picked today’s topic because it is a current event impacting everyone. For the last couple of weeks you could not turn on the news without hearing speculation on who would be the next pope. Once the pope was elected, all the talk was on how the new pope was breaking tradition by carrying his own luggage and riding on the bus with the Cardinals rather than taking the papal vehicle by himself. Apparently the outfit he wore when he appeared on the balcony created quite a stir. Having no knowledge about Catholic Church vestments, I decided to do some research. What I found out was quite interesting and filled with lots of history. I thought you might enjoy it as well. I promise this is not a newsletter on religion but on needlework!

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th pope on March 13, 2013. He chose the name Pope Francis, the first pope to choose that name. His election brought on a lot of firsts. It is very unusual that your predecessor is alive as in the case of Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is also the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, or even from the Southern Hemisphere. He had a frugal lifestyle in Argentina living in an apartment and cooking his own meals rather than residing at the official Cardinal residence.

From the commentary I read, Pope Benedict XVI’s reign was very ornate, even bringing back some wardrobe pieces. Apparently no other pope had as many chasubles and mitres as Benedict XVI. Since I had no idea what those items were I had a quick lesson on the appropriate attire for a Pope. All of the pieces must be blessed before they can be worn.

The Mitre is the ceremonial headgear worn by bishops and higher. It is a tall folding cap with two fabric tails, called lappets, down the back. There are three types of miters: The Simple Mitre is made of undecorated white silk or linen fabric with white lappets with red fringe. The Precious Mitre in the past was decorated with precious stones and gold. Now it is highly embroidered and it can be finished in the liturgical color of the day. The Auriphrygiata Mitre is plain gold cloth or white silk with gold or silver and colored embroidery. The mitre itself is usually white.

The Zucchetto is the skull cap worn by the pope and cardinals. The pope’s is white and the cardinals wear red. The zucchetto is usually made of silk or polyester fabric. Eight triangular panels form the skull cap. There is a twisted loop of silk sewn into the top of the cap to make it easier to handle. This loop, called the stirpes, distinguishes it from the Jewish kippah. The cap is lined with chamois leather for warmth and to keep its shape.

However, the pope has a special zucchetto called the Camauro. This hat is only worn by the pope in the winter and looks a lot like Santa’s hat. It is made of red velvet with white ermine trim. It had fallen out of use until Pope Benedict XVI brought it back. Here he is in the camauro. He is also wearing the winter mozzetta, which he also brought back into use.

The regalia the pope wears is layered starting with the choir dress. The choir dress is made up of the cassock and the fascia. The cassock is a long-sleeved, hoodless, ankle-length robe. The robe can be different colors depending on rank and what ceremony the wearer is attending. This piece of the regalia is not adorned. The fascia is the sash tied around the waist. The sash may be embroidered or may have fringe. There are specific protocols for the materials, colors, and lengths of the sash. Read more about the imposter’s wardrobe mistakes.

The Alb is an ankle-length vestment worn at mass over the cassock. The alb must be made of linen. Early albs the lower edge, wrists, and neck opening had decoration. In the 13th century rich brocade or embroidery could be sewn on the lower part of the alb. Soon a design could be put on the breast or back side. Milan introduced the use of lace which caused a lot of controversy. In 1893 there was a special decree that allowed lace to be used below the cincture (belt) on certain feast days. It was not permitted to have any colored lining behind the lace. The thought seemed to be the lace was becoming more than just decoration. I gave a little laugh when I read that. When you look at all the fancy adornment and embroidery on the entire regalia, how intimidating could a strip of lace be? Well somewhere along the way somebody felt the same way and there can be colored linings behind the lace. The rules that seem to have not changed are the fabric must be white and made of linen.

The Papal Fanon is an element that had not been used frequently after the Second Vatican Council which closed in 1965. Pope John Paul II wore it one in the 1980’s and Pope Benedict XVI wore it three times during the last six months of his office. This is a doubled shoulder cape of white silk with narrow woven golden stripes. Both pieces are round with the bottom cape just a little wider. The front of the fanon has a small gold embroidered cross.

The Mozzetta is a short cape covering the shoulders, buttoned over the breast worn with a cassock. You can tell the person’s position by the color. Cardinals wear scarlet and bishops wear purple. The pope has five mozzetta versions: summer made of red satin; winter made of red velvet with white ermine fur trim; the red serge worn during masses for the deceased; the red clothed worn during the Lenten and Advent season; and the Paschal mozzetta of white damask silk trimmed with white fur, worn only during Eastertide. Here is a photo of Pope Benedict XVI showing the mozzetta, alb and tippet.

A Tippet is a stole or narrow piece of clothing, worn over the shoulders. A tippet can be embroidered with a coat of arms while orders, awards or honors can be displayed on the other side.

The Chasuble is the outer most vestment worn over the alb and the stole. It started more like a large poncho but has often become more rectangular than round. This vestment is often magnificently embroidered. Pope Benedict XVI introduced many new styles while he was in office. In fact he used more chasubles and mitres than any other pope. Many were gifts and others were created for specific ceremonies.

Only the Pope wears the Pallium over his chasuble when celebrating Mass. The pallium is a circular band of fabric about two inches wide woven from white lamb’s wool from sheep raised by monks. There is a loop in the center that rests on the shoulders from which two twelve-inch-long pendants hang down, one in the front and one in back. It is ornamented with six small crosses, one on each tail and four on the loop. It is worn over the left shoulder and can be pins with three jeweled gold pins symbolic of the nails with which Christ was crucified.

Who knew there is a long distinguished history just around the Shoes! The Papal attire used to be almost entirely red and the red shoes can be traced at least to the Roman period. The red color signified the blood of Christ and the martyrs. Up until the mid-1950’s you might be expected to kiss the Pope’s shoes. At one time the shoes had different ornamentation on them. One shoe would have a gold cross on it sort of a target. Pope Benedict XVI brought back the red slippers. Adriano Stefanelli is the cobbler who is responsible for creating the shoes for the recent pope. He also made shoes for George W Bush and Michelle Obama. Here is the NBC news article. Pope Francis will not be wearing the flashy red shoes; however, he will have custom made shoes. The ones he wore to the conclave were reported to have had holes in the soles so a friend procured him a new pair after his election.

Wow!! The Pope must have a wardrobe consultant who makes sure all the pieces are coordinated properly. At one point in Papal history, there was an outfit for every day of the year and the closet actually took up several rooms. The Pope does have a personal tailor. As soon as it was announced Pope Benedict XVI would retire, tailors started stitching in the Ditta A. Gammarelli shop in downtown Rome. They have to create new vestments in three sizes. Once they are complete, they are displayed in the shop window until they are needed. Each outfit must include a white wool cassock, moire silk white cassock, a red silk mozzetta, a moire silk sash, a skull cap and a pair of shoes. This family owned shop has been outfitting cardinals and popes since 1798, except for Pius XII who used his own tailor. It would be fun to take a peak into this shop. There are shelves and drawers filled with embroidered fabrics and silks, sash fringing, tassels, and pompoms. There are miniature models throughout the store. The tailor says they coordinate the pope’s wardrobe except for his underwear! Here are the papal garments displayed in the Gammarelli shop window earlier this month.

However, tailors around the world get an opportunity to create papal finery. If you have ever been in charge of sewing dresses for a wedding you will be fascinated by what is required for a papal ceremony. During Pope Benedict XVI’s reign, he made a visit to Australia to conduct a Papal Mass in Sydney. Designs were submitted covering three different periods of time: The Gothic Revival, Carolingian, and Traditional Rome. The Prefect of Pontifical Ceremonies selected the final design from the Traditional Roman period. The ornamentation and embroidery had to be correct to that period. In addition to the papal attire, the Saints Bede Studio also had to create some vestments for the deacons assisting the pope at the Mass. The fabrics and threads were silk. Here is a photo of their gorgeous work. You can see even more stunning designs at their blog.

Saint Joseph Workshops, in Peru, was also called upon to create vestments for the Pope visit to Cuba last year. This order entailed “80 embroidered chasubles, 180 priest stoles, 20 deacon stoles, 6 dalmatics and 90 albs, to be worn by concelebrating priests and deacons at Holy Mass celebrated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on 26th March, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the “Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre” at Antonio Maceo Square.” WOW!! To learn more about this extraordinary group of craftsmen, check out their website.

As you can tell, Pope Benedict XVI brought back some of the magnificent adornments to the papal regalia. There are many websites devoted to his collection of clothing. I imagine there will be some mobile museums created and we may be able to get a close look at some of these fantastic pieces. Another thing we can thank Pope Benedict XVI for is reviving the use of the beautiful frontal altar cloths. I hope you have found this as intriguing as I did. These vestments must be absolutely amazing in person!


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