Tuesday, February 21



Maybe I'm contradicting myself about what I said in the last post about talking about Benedict's arms (let's be nice in the comments-boxes, folks), but I was just tooling around the 'net and found a few interesting photos regarding the use of the tiara during the present pontificate, the death of which appears to be somewhat exaggerated. I don't mind the triple-banded mitre that much, given that it still sets apart the Pope from the bishops as the bishops all use the gallero or pontifical hat on their arms (think of it as a "stealth tiara"), but I am also glad to see a multiplicity of versions of the arms appearing, for which there is a fair amount of heraldic precedent. JP II very occasionally used the mitre above his arms, and there are plenty of instances of differing crowns, helmets, knightly insignias and pavillions being used interchangeably with the same royal arms. Anyway, Benedict's left it on the flag, and he certainly enjoys all the other fun papal stuff. Plus, the Petrine pallium is definitely a keeper.

So, we're familiar with the standard version of the Pope's arms, with the curious three-banded mitre and the pallium, but Wikipedia notes, "However, there have been papal documents since his inauguration that have been appearing with the papal tiara present." I'd not seen much photo evidence of this, outside of a few unofficial representations, but it appears that the papal tiara appears above Benedict's arms in the bit of gardening back behind the Vatican where the hedges and flowerbeds are cut to resemble the papal arms. I say, use 'em both and enjoy the variety. I just wish they'd switch to a variation with a better drawing of the pallium and the mitre.

This image appeared in the October number of the Italian Salesian Bulletin, if you're interested. And we've talked about this already, but here's a close-up of the Swiss Guard flag where the papal arms appear with their traditional accountrements:

One could argue that Benedict or his gardeners didn't want to unnecessarily rip up the flower beds, or that departing from the existing Swiss Guard flag pattern would be too much work, but Benedict's triple-banded mitre appeared in the border of complex, Renaissance-style tapestries displayed at recent beatifications, arguably more work to re-design and weave than a single planting bed or a new military banner that was going to be replaced anyway.

These last two images are from the (somewhat contentious) discussion that arose on the American Heraldry Society back after the election (yes, I know, I am a geek), incidentally, which also includes some interesting examples of pontifical colleges whose arms include the tiara, and some other fun POD heraldic stuff.

The American Heraldry Society, incidentally, cooked up an interesting theoretical compromise between the tiara and the mitre, suggesting the Pope should use a variant of the historic camelaucum, the primitive ancestor of both tiara and mitre. The results are intriguing, if a little strange. The main problem I see with this is the camelaucum is even more removed from reality than the (unworn) tiara, having not been used since the early Middle Ages. It's a little too archaeological, in the sense criticized by Pius XII in Mediator Dei. Anyway, the camelaucum never had the little cross on top or the stripes, so it's a wholly artificial headgear, neither historical nor contemporary.

For more information, see Wikipedia's article on the subject.

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