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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Jewelry > The Crown Jewels > The Pope's Crown or Papal Tiara

Pope Benedict shows his coat of arms
Pope Benedict XVI announced on 27th April 2005 he had removed the symbol of papal tiara from the pope coat of arms.

Pictures of the past Popes wearing their three tiered Crown
The Papal Tiara or Pope's Crown is a triple tiered crown that is also called a tiara or triregno in Latin.

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Papal Tiara or Pope's Crown

The world watched the Vatican in 2005 as the Catholic Church went through its ceremony to elect and install the new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Questions being asked by conservative Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists and other Protestants, and the rest of the world's observers: Would the Pope Benedict XVI be crowned with the triple tiered Pope's Crown? Would there be a coronation ceremony or would he be inaugurated?  What hat would he wear?

Popes John Paul I and John Paul II had declined the wearing of the triple-tiered crown and the formal coronation ceremony when they were both inaugurated in 1978, thus ending a tradition dating back to at least the ninth century.

The Second Vatican Council in 1978 placed emphasis on the pastoral role of the Papacy, rather than its temporal authority.  Popes John Paul I dramatic removal of his tiara was intended to forever symbolise the papacy's renunciation of any desire for human glory and secular power. This aspect of the Pope's Crown story with photos continues here.

When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI he Vatican respected the decisions of his predecessors and chose not to be crowned with the triple tiered Papal Crown. The Vatican's new coat of arms removes the Crown or Papal Tiara and replaces it with the mitre and pallium as the symbols of the Pope. 

With the disappearance of the papal coronation, the British monarch is now the only monarch to receive a coronation. All others, like modern popes, are inaugurated into office.

The story continues below after these photos of the Pope's headgear and the new Vatican coat of arms.

The inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 wearing a simplex mitre instead of a Papal Tiara or Crown.

Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) laying his Papal Tiara on the altar of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of Vatican II
Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) after the decision made at Second Vatican Council the pope dramatically lays his Papal Tiara on the altar of St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope's Crown has never been worn again.

Triregnum from the 18th Century
Triregnum from the 18th Century
Some Latin accounts of the papal tiara call it the Triregno, others the triregnum. The Holy See's press office uses the latter name.

Pope Benedict XVI (2005-) has dispensed with the image of the three-tiered tiara that traditionally appeared at the top of each pope's coat of arms and replaced it with the pointed miter & pallium as the symbols of the Pope.

In 1978, one of first decisions of Pope John Paul I  after his election was to dispense with the 100-year-old papal coronation and the use of a papal tiara. Though perhaps understandable given Pope Paul's gesture a decade earlier, it still caused some surprise.

The new pope was instead installed in a revised and more simple Papal Installation, so low-key indeed that he had it moved to the morning so as not to disrupt Italian soccer coverage, which would normally be shown in the afternoon.

After Pope John Paul I's sudden death less than a month later, the new pope, John Paul II, opted to continue with John Paul I's precedent of replacing the papal coronation with a modest inauguration.

With the disappearance of the papal coronation, the British monarch is now the only monarch to receive a coronation. All others, like modern popes, are inaugurated into office.

However, a future pope could decide to be crowned and wear one of the Triple Tiaras: the recent increased usage of some traditional elements, most notably the Tridentine Mass, which in an about turn is now being approved for usage more widely5, might open up the prospect of a return of the papal symbol pre-Second Vatican Council.

Though unworn, the tiara remains the symbol of the papacy, and still features on the coat of arms of popes, including the uncrowned popes John Paul I and John Paul II.

One of the papal tiaras remains in use, however, as is placed on the head of a statue of St. Peter to honor him as the first pope on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29.

Unfortunately many of the earlier priceless papal tiaras (most notably the tiaras of Pope Julius II2 and Pope Saint Silvester) were destroyed, dismantled or seized by invaders (most notably by Napoleon's army in 1798), or by popes themselves.

Pope Clement VII had all the tiaras and papal regalia melted down in 1527 to raise the 400,000 ducats ransom demanded by the occupying army of Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. However eleven silver triregnos exist (a twelfth if one includes Pius VII's papal papier-mâché tiara), of which the earliest, the sole survivor from the attack by Napoleonic troops, dates from the reign of Pope Gregory XIII in the sixteenth century.

Many crowns were donated to the papacy by world leaders or states, including Queen Isabella II of Spain, the King of Belgium and Napoleon I of France. The crown provided by the latter was made from elements of former papal tiaras destroyed by his soldiers, and was given to Pius VII as a 'wedding gift' to mark Napoleon's own marriage to Empress Josephine on the eve of his imperial coronation. Others were provided to a newly elected pope by the See which they had held prior to their election.

In some instances, various cities sought to outdo each other in the beauty, value and size of the tiaras they provided for 'their' pope. Examples include triregnos given to Popes John XXIII and Paul VI by their previous Sees, Venice and Milan, on their election to the papacy in 1958 and 1963 respectively.

Nor was a pope restricted to wearing just one tiara: Pope John XXIII, for example, was photographed on different occasions wearing his own tiara presented in 1958, Pope Pius IX's 1877 tiara, or one of Pope Leo XIII's tiaras.

Pope Paul VI, whose bullet-shaped tiara is one of the most unusual in design, was the last pope to date to wear a triple tiara, though it remains open to any of his successors to reinstate both the coronation ceremony and the use of any one of the tiaras. Surviving tiaras, with the exception of that of Pope Paul VI, are on display in the Vatican.

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