Arms of the Papacy
A number of distinctions need to be made:
As an individual, the Pope usually has his own arms, either family arms or arms assumed at some point in his career. Since the Church uses heraldry abundantly, it is certain that anyone reaching the rank of bishop has arms already. Popes have had arms since the 14th c. at least. Boniface VIII (1294-1303) is the first pope for which we have contemporary evidence of his bearing arms; most 13th century popes had arms, but as they did not use tiaras or keys, it is difficult to attribute shields to them. Until 2005, a pope's arms were surmounted by the keys of St. Peter in saltire and above them a tiara with three crowns. This form dates back the the mid-14th century. See for example Benedetto Buglioni (1461-1521) : Wreath, with coat of arms of Pope Innocent VIII (1484-92) (48K) from the Musei Vaticani exhibit of the Christus Rex et Redemptor Mundi site. Notice the conical shape of the tiara, which is typical of medieval papal arms.
Elected in 2005, Benedict XVI has made important changes to the
external ornaments of the pope's arms. The tiara has been
replaced with a mitre decorated with three horizontal stripes and one
vertical stripe. Moreover, the arms are now surrounded by the
pallium, a white band of woollen cloth decorated with crosses patty
gules, which is the distinguishing marks of archbishops.
Arms of Benedict XVI
The arms are a little awkward to blazon in
English. In French, I would say "de gueules à la coquille d'or,
chapé ployé d'or, chargé à dextre d'une tête
de Maure au naturel couronnée et colletée de gueules, et à
senestre d'un ours au naturel lampassé de gueules et portant un fardeau de gueules
lié de sable".
Here is a picture of the arms seen from space (in the Vatican gardens).
The elements already appeared in his arms as archbishop of
that see (1977-82) and then as cardinal in Rome (except the escallop
was counterchanged on a field per fess wavy). The crowned Moor's
head is known in the arms of the bishops of Freising since 1316, and
was used after the secularization of Freising in 1803 by the
archbishops of Munich.
In ipso autem itinere Romano pergendo, cum in Breones pervenit, juxta silvam quandam in castris manebat. Sed dum custodes equorum incaute obdormierunt, ita ut nullus vigilaret, ursus e silva egrediens sagmarium m Viri Dei excerpens comedit. Mane autem facto, dum expergiscebant custodes, invenerunt eundem ursum super ipsum sagmarium jacentem, & comedentem illum. Quod dum Ansericus prædictus Viri Dei minister agnovit, beato Corbiniano dixit. Hoc autem Vir Dei patienter serens, dixit eidem Anserico: Tolle flagellum istum, & vade ad eum, & viriliter illum verbera, & castiga pro delicto suo, quo nobis nocuit. Quod dum ille agere formidavit, dixit ei Vir Dei: Vade & noli timere, sed ut dixi tibi fac, ac postea mitte super eum sellam sagmarionam, & sterne illum, & illam sagmam super illum impone, & mina cum aliis cavallis in viam nostram. Ipse vero Ansericus fecit, sicut præceperat ei Vir Dei, & appositam super se sagmam ipse ursus quasi domesticus equus eandem sagmam usque ad Romam perduxit, ibique a Viro Dei dimissus abiit viam suam.
Arms of previous popes
Here are some coats of arms of popes from contemporary monuments:
John Paul II, elected in 1978, bore the following arms.
The arms of the Church have been unvarying since the 16th century. They are: Gules, two keys in saltire or and argent, interlaced in the rings or. They are surmounted by a tiara. From those arms were derived the colors of the Papal troops, red and yellow, and their traditional cockade.
The Holy See, as governing body of the Church, has the following arms, since the 16th century: Gules, two keys in saltire or and argent, interlaced in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or. The difference is here that the tiara is a charge, not a timbre.
The arms of the Papal States are: Gules, on an ombrellino gules and or, two keys in saltire or and argent. (Galbreath gives a simpler blazon, Gules a pavilion or charged in the staff with a pair of tied keys in saltire or). These arms appeared as one quarter of the short-lived Kingdom of Italy (1805-15). They do not appear to have been adopted by the Citta del Vaticano after the Lateran Treaty of 1929.
The ombrellino was the emblem of the Pope's temporal powers. This can be seen
from the fact that it is shown behind the arms of the camerlengo (the cardinal
who heads the Apostolic Camera), who automatically becomes responsible for the
Pope's temporal powers when the Pope dies. Coins issued in the Papal
states during interregna invariably show the arms of the camerlengo, with
the cardinal's hat and the ombrellino. The ombrellino was used by the popes
in processions as early as the 12th c. Its shape varied over time, and is
now that of a conical sunshade, with vertical stripes of gules and or, and
an edge where the tinctures are counterchanged. It is carried by a man
standing behind the Pope. Its use as a badge indicating temporal powers
dates to Alexander VI Borgia (1492-1503).
It is also used as the mark of a basilica (major
or minor), and is usually displayed to the right of the altar. The rank of
basilica is an honor bestowed by the Pope on any church he pleases. A few
German abbeys (Reichenau on the lake of Constance, Maria Laach near Koblenz)
use it to emphasize their immediate subjection to the Holy See nullo mediante.
From: esn4616@ACFcluster.NYU.EDU (Elliot Nesterman)
The flag of the Vatican is yellow and white. However it has been so only since 1808, at which date, Napoleon amalgamated the pontiff's army into his own and so the Pope, Pius VII, thought that new colors were necessary. He chose yellow and white. These colors were used for various flags of the Pontifical State from their approval in 1825 until the State was incorporated into Italy in 1870. When the state was revived as Vatican City in 1929 the yellow and white flag was reborn. The modern flag was first officially hoisted on June 8, 1929. (Keep in mind that the conventions of flag use differ significantly from armorial conventions regarding the shield proper.)
It is true that the flag is now often shown with the keys and tiara over the division between yellow and gold. As a result, they are hard to distinguish, and have been rightly criticized by Bruno Heim. This flag does not, per se, constitute a violation of the "tincture rule" in heraldry. Flags are not subject to the same rules, and even Old Regime France used a semis of fleur-de-lys gold on a field of argent as the flag for its Navy.
Prior to the modern 19th century flag, there existed something called the papal banner, which has a very long and confused history. According to Galbreath, Leo III (pope from 795 to 816) gave Charlemagne a banner which is represented in a contemporary mosaic of the Lateran triclinium: "it is a green flag of the gonfalon type with three tails, with numerous gold dots and with 6 disks coloured red, black and gold, which doubtless are meant to represent embroidery." This banner was the vexillum of the Roman militia, not really the papal banner, and in any event disappears from history until the mid-11th c., when popes take the habit of giving specially blessed flags for specific military campaigns; one of which was that of William the conqueror. Parallel with this flag of the gonfalon type we find the persistence of the classical signum, a staff tipped by a cross with a short oblong of red cloth fastened to a transverse bar below. Of the various banners given out in that period (1044, 1059, three around 1065, 1087, 1098, 1106, 1114) nothing is known except from the tapestry of Bayeux. In the tapestry, William the Conqueror (to whom we know from elsewhere that a papal banner was given) is shown with a banner of Argent, a cross or between four objects (cots? crosslets?) sable.
The cross is mentioned on flags with the second crusade only (1147-49). A contemporary depiction of the emperor Frederic I as crusader (1190) shows him with a white shiled bearing a gold cross. In 1203 Innocent III sends a flag to the tsar of the Bulgars with a cover-letter; the flag bore a cross and the keys of St. Peter. This flag reappears in 1316 when the town of Viterbo was allowed to add the vexillum of the Church to its arms: it is depicted as a red oblong flag with two tails, with a white cross cantonned by four upright white keys. By the 16th c., the simpler and more familiar version of the arms of the Church (keys gold and argent on a field gules) had won out.
From the late Middle Ages onward, popes have granted titles of nobility. The titles, which became especially common at the end of the 16th c., became known in the early 19th c. as Roman nobility although they have less to do with Rome than with the Pope.
The titles included prince, duke, count, among others. One particular title was that of count palatine. It apparently emerged during the Avignon period, and was defined by the Trento Council as "knight of the Sacred Palace and of the Court of Laterano and palatine count". The title was associated with the Order of the Golden Spur.
During the French occupation in the Napoleonic period, Roman titles were abolished, and they were re-established on July 6, 1816. The Order of the Golden Spur, which had lost a good deal of its value by being awarded too easily, was abolished on Oct. 31, 1841 (replace with the Order of Saint-Sylvester). The title that used to accompany it was shortened to "Roman count palatine", and further simplified to "count" in 1847. The pope continued to grant titles even after 1870 and the loss of the Papal States. By the Lateran Accord of 1929, the Italian government recognized and confirmed the pope's power to grant titles, and the titles were considered equivalent to Italian titles. With the abolition of nobility in the Italian Republic in 1948, the Roman nobility was once again considered as foreign. Pius XII granted a few more titles, John XXIII confirmed some but none have been granted under Paul VI and John-Paul I.
The titles could be for life or hereditary. Typically, it was fairly easy for the holder of a life title to petition for conversion into a hereditary title. The titles were usually, but not always transmissible by male primogeniture only; there were usually, but not always granted to men.
Are these titles granted by the pope as temporal sovereign or as head of the Church? I personally incline toward the latter. The facts are that the pope granted these titles mainly to foreigners, not to his subjects in the Papal States; moreover, he continued to grant such titles even between 1870 and 1929, when he had no subjects and no sovereignty. The acts by which these titles are created are registered with the Actae Apolosticae Sedis, indicating that they are acts of the Holy See, that is, the governing body of the Catholic Church, not the government of Vatican City. Finally, the text of such acts makes clear that it is the grantor is the pope as spiritual figure; and the conditions imposed for transmission of nobility, in the case of hereditary titles, include a clause that the descendants must be Roman Catholic and must "persevere in their obedience to the apostolic Holy See." Such conditions have nothing to do with the pope's temporal sovereignty, and everything with his position as head of the Church.
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