Papal Tiara or Pope’s Crown

As with all previous popes, Pope Paul VI was crowned with a tiara at the papal coronation. As happened sometimes with previous popes, a new tiara was used, one donated by the city of Milan in honour of Paul’s elevation; he had been Cardinal Archbishop of Milan up to his election. Pope Paul’s tiara was quite different from earlier tiaras. It was not covered in jewels and precious gems, but was sharply cone-shaped. It was also distinctly lighter in weight than earlier tiaras.

Pope Paul VI was the last pontiff to wear a tiara. At the end of the Second Vatican Council, he descended the steps of the papal throne in St Peter’s Basilica and laid the tiara on the altar in a dramatic gesture of humility and as a sign of the renunciation of human glory and power in keeping with the renewed spirit of the Second Vatican Council. It marked a renunciation of one of the three possible reasons for the existence of the three tiers of the crown; secular power, which in any case had ended in 1870 when the Papal States joined the rest of Italy to form the Kingdom of Italy. Popes initially refused to accept their loss of the Papal States. In an act of defiance, they refused to leave the Vatican, describing themselves melodramatically as the ‘prisoner in the Vatican’. Paul’s removal of his tiara was intended to forever symbolize the papacy’s renunciation of any desire for secular power.

Pope Paul VI’s decision in 1978 to abandon the use of one of the most striking symbols of the papacy, the Papal Tiara, proved controversial with conservative Catholics, many of whom continue to campaign for its reinstatement.
Some branded Pope Paul an anti-pope, contesting that no valid pope would surrender the papal tiara.
One ‘claimant’ to the papacy after Paul VI’s death, Clemente Domínguez y Gómez, of the conservative catholic Palmar de Troya movement was ‘proclaimed’ as ‘Pope Gregory XVII’ by his followers in Seville, Spain in 1978, and was ‘crowned’ using a ‘new’ ‘papal tiara’, showing the power of its symbolism. A rival antipope, Pius XIII of the ‘True Catholic Church’ has made use of the tiara on his coat of arms.

Pope Paul’s tiara was presented to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC by the Apostolic Delegate to the United States on February 6, 1968 as a gesture of Pope Paul VI’s affection for the Catholic Church in the United States. It is on permanent display in Memorial Hall along with the stole of Pope John XXIII, which he wore at the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

The 16th Century Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent is known to have commissioned Italian craftsmen to make a 5-crown tiara modeled on the Papal design, to demonstrate that his power and authority exceeded that of the Pontiffs.