A papal coronation was the ceremony of the placing of the papal tiara on a newly elected pope. The first recorded papal coronation was that of Nicholas I in 858. The last was the 1963 coronation of

St. Paul VI, who soon afterwards abandoned the practice of wearing the tiara. None of his successors have used the tiara, and their papal inauguration celebrations have included no coronation ceremony.

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The papal inauguration celebration, with or without a coronation, has only symbolic significance, as a pope assumes office immediately on giving his consent to a valid election.

In Spanish, the term Coronación Pontificia (English: “pontifical coronation”) is sometimes used for the canonical coronation of religious images through a formal, expressed decree by a reigning Pope.

The coronation took place on the first Sunday or Holy Day following the election. It began with a solemn Papal Mass. During the chanting of Terce, he sat on a throne and all of the cardinals made what was called their “first obeisance” to him, approaching one by one and kissing his hand. Then the archbishops and bishops approached and kissed his feet.

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After the Mass, the new pope was crowned with the papal tiara. This frequently took place on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, overlooking the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The pope was seated on a throne with the flabella to either side of him. After the Dean of the College of Cardinals recited a few prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer and a collect, the senior cardinal deacon, the protodeacon, removed the pope’s mitre and placed the tiara on his head with the words:


Accipe tiaram tribus coronis ornatam, et scias te esse patrem principum et regum, rectorem orbis in terra vicarium Salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi, cui est honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum.

Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns, and know that you are the father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world, the vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ on earth, to whom be all honor and glory, world without end.

The last act of the inauguration of a new pope is still the formal taking possession (possessio) of his cathedra as Bishop of Rome in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. This is the final ceremony mentioned in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on the vacancy of the Apostolic See and the election of the Roman Pontiff. The pope is enthroned in the same manner as other bishops. He is solemnly conducted to the episcopal throne, and takes possession by seating himself on it. He receives the kiss of peace and listens to the reading of a passage of Holy Scripture, whereupon he pronounces an address that used to be called the sermo inthronisticus.

In ancient times, the letters that the pope sent to the patriarchs in token of being in communion with them in the same faith were called litterae inthronisticae or syllabai enthronistikai.

Authored by  Ehljay Kobe De La Rosa// Credo In Unum Deo

Featured image source: DW

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