Last week, I posted a message about the ill-advised presentation of a music-video at our church, which featured several Catholic-themed images, including a statue of a smiling pope wearing his three-tiered papal tiara (aka the “Triregnum”). See here. In light of that regrettable “controversy,” I thought it might be interesting to briefly examine the infamous papal tiara.
Historians believe that popes were crowned with the papal tiara beginning in the 8th century. The tiara initially had a single crown at the base, but a second crown was added around 1200 A.D. to signify the pope’s absolute authority over both the spiritual AND temporal realms. A third crown was added in the 1300s. What does the third crown signify? Some conjecture that because the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor had three crowns, signifying Germany, Lombardy, and Rome, the pope, not to be upstaged, also added a third crown. The official Vatican website explains the three crowns symbolize “the triple power of the pope: father of kings, governor of the world, and Vicar of Christ,” although “father of kings” and “governor of the world” appear to be one and the same claim only using different words, lending support to the preceding theory about keeping up with the Emperor. There are also some who contradict the Vatican ( a favorite pastime among Catholics these days) and conjecture the three crowns represent the threefold offices of Christ; priest, prophet, and king.
Popes appeared with the three-tiered tiara at all ceremonial papal functions for six-hundred years. However, Paul VI (photo left), famously removed his tiara from his head during the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council in 1963 as a gesture of collegiality with the bishops of the church and, some assume, as a renouncement of the papal claim to temporal power. Catholic traditionalists cite Paul VI’s act as a providential sign from God that symbolized the removal of apostolic authority from the papacy due to the heretical declarations of Vatican II.
Paul VI’s tiara is on permanent display at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Although the papal tiara is no longer worn by popes, it is featured on the flag of Vatican City (the Holy See), which is prominently displayed at the front of all Roman Catholic churches (photo right). Despite Paul VI’s ceremonious act, modern popes have never officially renounced the papacy’s claim of absolute authority over all temporal rulers dating back to pope Gregory VII in the 11th century.
When early Christianity was legalized and then adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD, it rapidly followed the imperial model with the bishop of Rome eventually becoming the temporal leader of Western Christendom. The Good News! of simple saving faith in Jesus Christ as Savior was replaced with legalism and ritualism controlled by an increasingly powerful church hierarchy and clergy class. After reading through the New Testament, try then to imagine the apostles, Peter or Paul, focusing their efforts on the accumulation of temporal wealth and power and accepting earthly crowns and the regal veneration of their subservient subjects. SMH.
The triple-crown of the papacy, still displayed in every Catholic church, reminds us of the many centuries when Catholicism ruled Europe and lands beyond with an iron fist. Every blood-bought, born-again follower of Jesus Christ should be revolted by the papal tiara rather than displaying videos of it at their churches during worship services.
The Papal Tiara – Wikipedia article
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” – Hebrews 11:24-26