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The Papal Tiara


The tiara is comprised of three crowns signifying the pope's three-fold duties to teach, sanctify, and govern the Church. It also signifies the temporal authority of the Vicar of Christ, the highest on earth. It has been in its triple tier form since the 14th century starting with Pope Clement V.

Crowned bronze statue of St. Peter at Rome

Since 1963,1 the post-conciliar popes have put aside the papal tiara in an attempt to placate “modern sensibilities” and simultaneously kowtow to the liberal hierarchy’s aspirations of collegiality—echoing the Revolution’s false principle of equality. So it is refreshing when the laity have enough Catholic sense to endeavor to reset the tiara on the brow of Christ’s Vicar.

Papal Tiara
Dieter Philippi presenting
the new papal tiara
to Pope Benedict XVI in May 2011

Such an incident occurred only recently in May, when a German gentleman, Dieter Philippi, a renown hobbyist of ecclesiastical headgear, commissioned from a Hungarian atelier—who ironically is usually preoccupied making mitres for Orthodox prelates!2—the fabrication of a new tiara for Pope Benedict XVI, stating to the press before its presentation:

Well, we thought how every Pope in the past had a tiara. Even John Paul II had one [he never wore it though]. That was a present from Hungarian Catholics given to him in 1981. So we thought about making a tiara from German Catholics to hand over to the present Pope.

In these modern times and after forty years of a steady diet of Lumen Gentium’s error of collegiality, one must wonder why many Catholics nevertheless continue to long instinctively for the restoration of the traditional trappings of the Papacy?

Coronation of Pope Paul VI
The coronation of Pope Paul VI
in 1963, the only post-conciliar
pope to wear the papal tiara.
Later that year, Paul VI would set
the tiara aside as an act of "humility"

One will recall a similar attempt earlier in Pope Benedict’s reign, when in the aftermath of a security failure to protect His Holiness during the Christmas Mass processional, the suggestion was made via multiple Internet sources to restore the pope’s sedia gestatoria—and even the accompanying flabella! There was also the failed attempt to restore the tiara to the Holy Father’s personal papal coat of arms—though this effort did survive past a month, nevertheless the Vatican Gardener’s sculptured armorial shrubbery did.

Pope Pius XII using sedia gestatoria and flabella
Pope Pius XII using the sedia gestatoria (portable throne)
and flabella (fans made of ostrich feathers). Flanking the
chamberlains bearing the throne is the now-defunct
papal Noble Guard, who provide an effective screen
of protection around the Holy Father

Is this mere nostalgia for the “dusty imperial” trappings of a by-gone era, when the Church was relatively stable and universally respected, even by its foresworn enemies? Or could it be that through these external devices Catholics comprehend the extent of the authority possessed by the successor of St. Peter, whom Christ placed over His Church to teach, sanctify, and govern? Are they merely wishing to see physically signified these dogmatic words of Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus (On the Power and Nature of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff):

Hence we teach and declare that by the appointment of Our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty of ordinary power over all other Churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatsoever rite and dignity, are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman pontiff. This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and salvation.

Tiara in Vatican Gardens
While the tiara was removed
from Pope Benedict's coat of
arms, the Vatican Gardener
kept it where all could see

Could it also be these Catholics desire to see resurrected public and visible recognition of the temporal power that the Pope possesses as Christ’s Vicar over civil potentates? In fact, what faithful Catholic doesn’t relish the stories of when a Pope would flex his supreme authority over the heads of wayward princes—remember Emperor Henry IV at Canossa?!

Of course, this type of truly Catholic thinking—nothing less than practice of the Social Reign of Christ the King—is anathema to the Liberal mind which demands in the name of “religious liberty” the separation of Church and State, and for the sake of “humility”, the degradation of the Supreme Pontiff by placing him on equal footing with the College of Bishops.

Perhaps this is why (ironically in lieu of the aforementioned security debacle) in the words of the Midnight Mass Introit of Christmas,3 the Liberals “rage” against those who defend the rights of the Papacy against the error of Collegiality by labeling them as “divisive”, “disobedient” and even “schismatic”. Their “rage” though is in “vain” because Truth always eventually conquers, dispelling all falsehoods.

But what is truly paradoxical is when the Holy Father himself—who often finds the most basic of his solemn duties impeded by the entrenched collegial bureaucracy, from the Roman Curia to episcopal conferences—concurs with the Liberals against the very Catholics who are his most ardent supporters!

Thus in the symbol of the papal tiara, we can easily see the struggle that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his Priestly Society of St. Pius X have continually waged against the error of Collegiality and staunchly defended the true rights of the papacy. So we echo the sentiments of Catholics everywhere: bring back the papal tiara, and all that entails with it, for Christ the King, His Church and His Vicar!

Papal tiara given to Pope Benedict XVI


1 Pope Paul VI wore the tiara a number of times in 1963, but in November of that year, he dramatically laid it upon the main altar at St. Peter's Basilica as a gesture of renouncing the papal claim to temporal power. After this act, no pope has worn the tiara since, not even for their papal coronation ceremony.

2 Who deny the Primacy of Peter over all bishops, instead falsely claiming that the Pope only has a “primacy of honor”.

3 “Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things? © 2013                    home                    contact