Tiara, Papal

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A bee-hive shaped headdress, high and round, made of cloth of silver, with three diadems, usually enriched with precious stones, with two lappets (infulae ) hanging down the back, historically worn by the pope as an extraliturgical insigne. The tiara is, or was, frequently called triregnum or corona.

Use. Although never considered a liturgical vestment, the tiara was historically used to crown the newly elected pope. The tiara was also worn by the pope for solemn entries, especially at St. Peter's or the Lateran Basilicas, when he wore the long papal cope. A very ancient usage required that the pope be crowned with the tiara, not by the dean of the Sacred College, as would seem suitable, but by the first assistant cardinal deacon, who was usually also the first of the cardinal deacons. The reason was that the pope is not crowned by the College of Cardinals, but crowned himself, the assistant deacon acting as a simple minister, helping the pope to put on the tiara. A formula of coronation, recited by the deacon, was added at a later date. The precious stones are not preceptive, and for his coronation Paul VI, the last pope to be crowned with a tiara, received a tiara made according to the old Lombard crowns, with fleurons but no stones on the diadems.

It is difficult to write the history of the papal tiara, since its shape has changed greatly. Its origin is closely related not only to the Latin miter but also to the stiff Oriental one. In his Antiquities of the Jews Josephus says that the high priest's miter had a "golden crown polished, of three rows, one above another" [3.7.6; tr. W. Whiston, (London 1822) 1:140]. An ancient tiara, said to have been given to Silvester I (d. 335) by the Emperor Constantine, has a long history attached to it and is said to have been worn for the last time by Nicholas V (d. 1455) at his coronation (Müntz, 248). In about the 10th century the tiara became a stiff headdress, definitely distinct from the miter, but having only one circle or coronet. Boniface VIII (d. 1303) added a second diadem. However, very soon a third one and the lappets were added, giving it its present form. The Avignon popes followed the custom probably introduced by Benedict XI (d. 1304), and retained the triple diadem. With the Renaissance popes the tiara was transformed into a very precious papal ornament. Julius II (d. 1513) ordered the papal jeweller, Caradosso, to make him a precious tiara that cost approximately ten million francs. It was also at this period that the custom was introduced of having two other precious tiaras and one or two precious miters carried in front of the papal procession before the pope's pontifical Mass.

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI descended the steps of the papal throne in St. Peter's Basilica and laid the tiara on the altar in a gesture of humility and renunciation of pomp, human glory and power. On Feb. 6, 1968, this tiara was presented to the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate in Washington, D.C. by the Apostolic Delegate to the U.S., where it is on permanent display in the Memorial Hall below the Great Church along with the stole of Pope John XXIII which he wore at the opening of Vatican II. Pope Paul VI was the last pope to be crowned with a papal tiara. Subsequent popes have affirmed this renunciation of pomp and glory, emphasizing instead their calling to be the Servant of the Servants of God.

Bibliography: e. mÜntz, La Tiare pontificale du VIII au XVI siècle (Paris 1897) best study and bibliog. b. sirch, Der Ursprung der bischöflichen Mitra und der päpstlichen Tiara (St. Ottilien 1975). a. maloof, "Eastern origin of the papal tiara," Eastern Churches Review 1 (1966) 146149. c. e. pocknee, "Mitre and the papal tiara," Church Quarterly Review 167 (1966) 491495.

[j. nabuco/eds.]