May 072012

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Related post: Andrew O. — When The Popes Started Wearing White And Why? — May 4, 2012.

As I was posting Andrew’s post on Friday night, I knew that I had no choice but to spend some time (which I really don’t have) looking into this. I didn’t have any time at all to even think about it until Sunday evening. Exactly 18″ from my right shoulder, as I sit at my main PC, is my shelf of over-sized pope books, the first in the shelf, given its size, being Michael Walsh’sAn Illustrated History of Popes‘ (which by the way, per its index, does not have a single reference to Pius V (#226) — the white cassock wearing Dominican). I decided I had to look through this book in order. Page 30, an unidentified 12th century mosaic — which I reproduce below (with thanks to Michael), which supposedly shows from left-to-right, St. Peter (#1), St. Cornelius (#21) and St. Julius I (#35) and martyr St. Calepodius.

From the Michael Walsh book pages 30-31.

As far as I can see all three popes are wearing white, underneath and this 12th century mosaic supposedly even predates Innocent V (#186) [1276 – 1276]. So I have decided that I am going to do this properly and thoroughly — and that means I need to create an Excel spreadsheet. Goal is I am going to log 5 pictures a day of popes showing what color robes they were wearing — with the original date of the mosaic, fresco or painting, pope, artist etc. etc. Then I can crunch it to see what we can deduce. I already found some interesting pictures of Gregory ‘the Great’ I (#64), who was the first religious to be pope, depicted in white.

If you have pictures you want to submit to help me out please do — and that applies especially to Mark T. Fitz and David T. (trusted experts, with extensive libraries, all). Thanks.

From 'The Visual Dictionary'

Useful links:
>> Dress of Roman Catholic Clergy
>> Wikipedia ‘Papal regalia and insignia
>> The Visual Dictionary
>> Top 10 items of papal regalia

  3 Responses to “When The Popes Started Wearing White — The Investigation”

  1. The Walsh images show popes in liturgical dress chasuble over alb (which is always white). The other paintings where choir dress (seasonal mozzetta over white cassock). That leaves house dress (non liturgical but clerical). This was formalized by Pius IX in piano as the simar – the white cassock-like dress the pope wears daily. Maybe this is what St. Pius V started.

  2. Let me clarify ‘in piano’ for those that may find that expression puzzling. This is from the ‘Dress of Roman Catholic Clergy‘ (referenced above at the end of the post): “Pian Dress: A second form of dress is described in the documents as for “solemn occasions outside liturgical celebrations,” which has colloquially been called Pian dress (Italian abito piano) because Bl. Pope Pius IX extended its use in 1870 for papal audiences and other public solemn occasions. It is used on very formal occasions, whenever gentlemen are asked to dress in white-tie or black-tie, but also on other formal occasions when Prelates are expected to appear publicly in their official capacity in circumstances and places which allow them to wear the formal dress of the Church“.

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