Saturday, March 9

The Pope's Bold Fashion Statements

The tall folded hat worn by popes and other bishops is called a mitre, and is an ancient symbol of priestly authority. Mitre's come in several styles: simplex or simple, made of white linen or silk; pretiosa or precious, adorned in precious stones; and auriphrygiata or gold (seen here) made of gold cloth or white cloth with a gold fringe, typically worn during celebrations. Benedict was known for wearing mitres that were taller and often more colorful taller than his predecessor John Paul II.

The pallium is a thin woolen shawl worn during mass and on special occasions. It covers the pope's shoulders and extends down the length of his body. In the West, the pallium has typically been symmetrical, running down the center of the popes body. Benedict, however, occasionally wore an asymmetrical Eastern-style pallium, which some interpreted as a symbol of his efforts to mend relations with Eastern Orthodox churches.

Another once-forgotten vestment Benedict dug up from the back of the papal closet is a red-velvet cap with white ermine fringe called a camauro. Reminiscent of Santa's hat, the camauro is worn only by the pope and only in the winter, in place of the typical zucchetto skull cap worn by bishops and cardinals. Like the mortarboard caps worn by graduates, hats similar to the camauro were once also worn by medieval academics.

Most senior clergy wear a short elbow length cape called a mozzetta, but the pope has five distinct styles that only he can wear. Like most vestments, only the pope can wear white mozzettas, and only his come trimmed with ermine fur in the winter.

The pope historically wore red shoes festooned with a large gold cross or gold buckle when walking outside, all the better for kissing. Following Vatican II, Pope Paul XVI kept the red shoes but ditched the buckles in the 1960s and ultimately nixed foot kissing altogether. All successive popes wore red shoes but one, John Paul II, who wore brown shoes. Benedict XVI reinstated the red shoes, getting his loafers made by a Peruvian-born shoemaker in Rome named Antonio Arellano.

From the eighth century to the middle of the 20th, popes were coronated wearing an ornate three-tiered crown called a tiara. Like many of the finer vestments, tiaras went out of style following Vatican II and a decree by Paul VI. Paul actually renounced a special tiara made especially for him by the city of Milan, which he wore only once briefly at his coronation. The last tiara was auctioned, and purchased by American Catholics and is on display at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. No popes have worn a tiara since 1963, but the new pope could restore the tradition.

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