"Papal Coats-of-Arms" Top 5 Page for this destination Vatican Tip by von.otter
Vatican, Rome: 123 reviews and 315 photos
“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”
— Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)
ARMING HIMSELF The papal coat-of-arms doesn’t carry the weight it once did when the Holy Father exercised greater temporal power, such as commanding an army. But since 1198 when Innocent III first used a coat-of-arms every pontiff has had one. One pope’s or another’s coat-of-arms can be spotted throughout the Eternal City, once their capital (some say it still is).
Some popes incorporated his family’s coat-of-arms into his own, as did Urban VIII and Leo X. Others created a coat-of-arms, such as most of the modern-day pontiffs; still others borrowed one, as Pius IV did. But always the shield and its emblems are combined with the papal triple tiara (sadly, no longer worn!) and the crossed keys of St. Peter.
Photo #1. Pope Urban VIII was born in 1568 as Maffeo Barberini; he reigned from 1623 to 1644. He commissioned the soaring bronze baldaquino over the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica from Gianlorenzo Bernini, as well as other works of art. This example of this pope’s coat-of-arms is part of the 1960s-descending ramp in the Vatican Museum.
What’s the buzz about the Barberini family adopting bees as its symbol? Bees represent teamwork & industriousness, two Barberini characteristics. Bees also represent social climbing.
The family’s original name was Tafani da Barberino, from the village of Barberino near Florence. As they moved up the social ladder, transferring to Florence and then to Rome, they quickly dropped the Tafani family name, and adopted the name of their village. The family crest had to be upgraded too. So three golden bees replaced three golden horseflies, which had replaced three common black horseflies (horseflies = Tafani) that had originally graced the family coat of arms.
Photo #2. Pope Julius III was born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte in 1487; and he reigned as the last High Renaissance pope from 1550 to 1555. This example of his coat-of-arms hangs on the courtyard façade of the Palazzo Spada.
One of the major scandals of Julius’s pontificate concerns his relationship with his adoptive “nephew,” Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, a beggar-boy whom he had picked up on the streets of Parma years earlier. Julius raised Innocenzo to the position of cardinal. Wagging tongues called the boy Julius’s Ganymede; the Venetian ambassador is said to have reported that Innocenzo shared the pope’s bedroom and bed. Further gossip has it that the pope boasted of the boy’s prowess.
Photo #3. Pope Clement X was born in Rome in 1590 as Emilio Bonaventura Altieri; and he reigned as Pope from 1670 to 1676. This example of his coat-of-arms is across the street from the Jesuit church Il Gesù.
On the day he was to be crowned, he was dragged from his bed screaming, “I don’t want to be the Pope!” At the age of 80 he felt that he was too old to hold an office of such great responsibility. In 1675 Clement X celebrated the fourteenth Holy Year Jubilee.
He inaugurated Ponte Sant’Angelo once it had been decorated with Bernini’s ten Carrara marble angels still to be seen there (see my VT To Do Tips “Bernini Angels, Ponte Sant’Angelo Parts I & II”). Pope Clement X added the beautiful south fountain in the piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Photo #4. Pope Alexander VII was born in Siena in 1599 as Fabio Chigi; he reigned from 1655 to 1667. He was a member of the wealthy Chigi banking family; and he was a great-nephew of Pope Paul V. This example of Alexander’s coat-of-arms stands atop the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.
Queen Christina of Sweden (1632–1654) converted to Roman Catholicism during Alexander VII’s reign. He invited her, after her abdication, to come live in Rome; and he baptized her there on Christmas Day 1655.
One of his grandest accomplishments was to commission from Gianlorenzo Bernini the colonnade that embraces St. Peter’s Square. The decorations of the Chigi Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, titular churches for several of the Chigi cardinals, was also work this pope commissioned from Bernini.
Photo #5. Pope Leo X was born Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1475; he reigned from 1513 until 1521. He was a member of the wealthy and influential Medici family from Florence. This example of this pope’s coat-of-arms is part of the 1960s-descending ramp in the Vatican Museum.
Leo’s sale of indulgences to raise funds for the construction of the new basilica of St. Peter angered some, chief among them Martin Luther, who used Leo’s behavior to launch a push for church reform, leading to the Catholic/Protestant split.
He was a great bibliophile and increased the number of books held in the Vatican Library by adding to it his own substantial collection.
To see more and to read more about the papal coats-of-arms on display around Rome see my Travelogue “Papal Coats-of-Arms.”
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