"Papal Coats-of-Arms" Top 5 Page for this destination Rome Travelogue by von.otter

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“The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard. Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes. Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.”
— Pope John Paul II’s explanation at his Inauguration why he would not be crowned with the papal tiara

With the resulting power vacuum that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Church was the only institution standing that could bring order to Europe. The head of the Church, the pope, also became a ruling monarch. In 1198 Innocent III began using a coat-of-arms, and since then every pontiff has had one.

Every pontiff has included the triple tiara as part of his coat of arms, except Benedict XVI, who, regrettably, replaced it with a bishop’s miter, above. The triple tiara can still be seen on the Vatican State flag.

Papal coats-of-arms can be seen throughout Rome. They are painted, carved, chiseled, large, small, inside and out. Most are beautiful works of art.

Pope Clement XII (1652–1740) reigned from 1730 to 1740. Born Lorenzo Corsini in Florence, he was the son of Bartolomeo Corsini, Marquis of Casigliano, and his wife Isabella Strozzi, sister of the Duke of Bagnuolo. He was blind and kept to his bed; he gave audiences and conducted affairs of state from here! Work began on the triumphant Fontana di Trevi during his papacy; and Arco di Constantino was also restored.

This example of his coat-of-arms appears as part of the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square. Photo taken May 2007.

Pope Gregory XIII (1502–1585) reigned from 1572 to 1585. Born Ugo Boncompagni in Bologna; he studied law there and graduated in 1530. He chose to be known as Gregory XIII to honor Pope Gregory I the Great (590–604).

We owe our method of date keeping to Pope Gregory XIII; he ordered that the calendar be reformed, producing the Gregorian calendar with the aid of Jesuit priest and astronomer Christopher Clavius. On 15.October.1582, this calendar replaced the Julian calendar, which had been in use since 45 BC; today, the Gregorian calendar has become universally used.

This beautiful, bas-relief example of his coat-of-arms appears in the Vatican Museums. Photo taken May 2007.

Pope Innocent X (1574–1655) reigned from 1644 to 1655. He was born Giovanni Battista Pamphilj in Rome.

In 1650 Innocent X celebrated a Jubilee. He commissioned Gianlorenzo Bernini to design and build Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) in Piazza Navona, where the Pamphilj family had its palazzo (now the Brazilian Embassy) and the adjoining lyrical Church of St. Agnes by Francesco Borromini stands. Palazzo Nuovo at the Campidoglio was built on this pope’s order, as well. Photo taken May 2007.

Pope Paul III (1468-1549) reigned from 1534 to 1549. He was a Leap Year baby; born Alessandro Farnese in Canino, Latium, Italy on February 29.

Much of his papacy was occupied with the threat posed by Protestants. He called the Council of Trent in 1545 to deal with them. In that same year he created the Duchy of Parma from that part of the Duchy of Milan south of the River Po as a fief for his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese.

This example of Paul III’s coat-of-arms hangs over the first-floor center window of his family's home, Palazzo Farense, now the French Embassy. Photo taken May 2007.

Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) reigned from 1846 to 1878. He was born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti in Senigallia into a noble family. His was the longest pontificate in the history of the Church. He was also the last pope to exercise temporal power. When on 20.September.1870 Victor Emmanuel II seized Rome, making it the capital of a united Italy, more than 1,000 years of papal temporal power ended!

Sovereignty denied him over his former territory, the Papal States, he was granted the right to send and receive ambassadors, 3.25 million liras a year and the use of the Vatican. Pius IX refused this offer, laying his claim to all the conquered territory. Although he was allowed to travel, he called himself a prisoner in the Vatican.

In the canonization process, Pope John Paul II first declared Pius IX venerable on 6.July.1985, and then beatified him on 3.September.2000. Photo taken May 2007.

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) reigned from 1939 until 1958. He was born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli in Rome into an aristocratic family. On his 63rd birthday, 2.March.1939, Cardinal Pacelli was elected pope after a one-day conclave. Because his pontificate and World War II began the same year he will always be linked with the 20th century’s most ghastly conflict.

In his 1950 encyclical “Humani Generis,” Pius XII was the first pope to address evolution at length, saying that the theory might explain the biological origins of human life but that its advocates “imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution ... explains the origin of all things.”

On his path to sainthood, Pius XII has reached the venerable stage as of 2.September.2000 under Pope John Paul II.

This example of Pius XII’s coat-of-arms is part of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Photo taken May 2007.

Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) reigned from 1585 to 1590. Unusual for the time, Felice Peretti came from humble origins in the Marche region of Italy; his father was a gardener, and he had herded pigs when he was young.

During his short pontificate, Sixtus V restored order to the Papal States, which had fallen into lawlessness; and built up the papal treasury through a series of taxes. With this revenue he embarked on a grand building program for the Eternal City. St. Peter’s dome was completed; the Quirinal Palace, the Lateran Palace, and the Vatican Palace were all expanded or repaired. Four of Rome’s 13 obelisks, that in St Peter’s Square, the one in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, the one in Piazza del Popolo, and that at the rear of Santa Maria Maggiore, were raised to act as landmarks for pilgrims seeking the city’s major churches.

Sixtus V did not care for antiquities for their own sake. Only when they could be used in service to the Church were they of any use. For example, Sixtus V used the Column of Trajan, in Trajan’s Forum, as a pedestal for a bronze of Saint Peter; and the Column of Marcus Aurelius, in Piazza Colonna, he used as a pedestal for a bronze of Saint Paul.

This beautifully painted coat-of-arms for Sixtus V is on a ceiling in the Vatican Museums. Photo taken May 2007.

  • Page Updated Jul 12, 2009
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