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Form and Use of the Modern Pallium

The modern pallium is a circular band about two inches wide, worn about the neck, breast, and shoulders, and having two pendants, one hanging down in front and one behind. The pendants are about two inches wide and twelve inches long, and are weighted with small pieces of lead covered with black silk. The remainder of the pallium is made of white wool, part of which is supplied by two lambs presented annually as a tax by the Lateran Canons Regular to the Chapter of St. John on the feast of St. Agnes, solemnly blessed on the high altar of that church after the pontifical Mass, and then offered to the pope. The ornamentation of the pallium consists of six small black crosses -- one each on the breast and back, one on each shoulder, and one on each pendant. The crosses on the breast, back, and left shoulder are provided with a loop for the reception of a gold pin set with a precious stone. The pallium is worn over the chasuble.

The use of the pallium is reserved to the pope and archbishops, but the latter may not use it until, on petition they have received the permission of the Holy See. Bishops sometimes receive the pallium as a mark of special favour, but it does not increase their powers or jurisdiction nor give them precedence. The pope may use the pallium at any time. Others, even archbishops, may use it only in their respective dioceses, and there only on the days and occasions designated in the "Pontificale" ( Christmas, the Circumcision, and other specified great feasts ; during the conferring of Holy orders , the consecration of abbots, etc.), unless its use is extended by a special privilege. Worn by the pope, the pallium symbolizes the plenitudo pontificalis officii (i.e. the plenitude of pontifical office); worn by archbishops, it typifies their participation in the supreme pastoral power of the pope, who concedes it to them for their proper church provinces. An archbishop, therefore, who has not received the pallium may not exercise any of his functions as metropolitan, nor any metropolitan prerogatives whatever; he is even forbidden to perform any episcopal act until invested with the pallium. Similarly, after his resignation, he may not use the pallium; should he be transferred to another archdiocese. He must again petition the Holy Father for the pallium. In the case of bishops, its use is purely ornamental. The new palliums are solemnly blessed after the Second Vespers on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and are then kept in a special silver-gilt casket near the Confessio Petri until required. The pallium is conferred in Rome by a cardinal-deacon, and outside of Rome by a bishop ; in both cases the ceremony takes place after the celebration of Mass and the administration of the oath of allegiance.

History and Antiquity

It is impossible to indicate exactly when the pallium was first introduced. According to the "Liber Pontificalis" , it was first used in the first half of the fourth century. This book relates, in the life of Pope Marcus (d. 336), that he conferred the right of wearing the pallium on the Bishop of Ostia, because the consecration of the pope appertained to him. At any rate, the wearing of the pallium was usual in the fifth century; this is indicated by the above-mentioned reference contained in the life of St. Marcus which dates from the beginning of the sixth century, as well as by the conferring of the pallium on St. Cæsarius of Arles by Pope Symmachus in 513. Besides, in numerous other references of the sixth century, the pallium is mentioned as a long-customary vestment. It seems that, from the beginning, the pope alone had the absolute right of wearing the pallium. Its use by others was tolerated only in virtue of the permission of the pope. We hear of the pallium being conferred on others, as a mark of distinction, as early as the sixth century. The honour was usually conferred on metropolitans, especially those nominated vicars by the pope, but it was sometimes conferred on simple bishops (e.g. on Syagrius of Autun, Donus of Messina, and John of Syracuse by Pope Gregory the Great ). The use of the pallium among metropolitans did not become general until the ninth century, when the obligation was laid upon all metropolitans of forwarding a petition for the pallium accompanied by a solemn profession of faith, all consecrations being forbidden them before the reception of the pallium. The object of this rule was to bring the metropolitans into more intimate connection with the seat of unity and the source of all metropolitan prerogatives, the Holy See, to counteract the aspirations of various autonomy-seeking metropolitans, which were incompatible with the Constitution of the Church, and to counteract the evil influences arising therefrom: the rule was intended, not to kill, but to revivify metropolitan jurisdiction. The oath of allegiance which the recipient of the pallium takes today originated, apparently, in the eleventh century. It is met with during the reign of Paschal II (1099-1118), and replaced the profession of faith. It is certain that a tribute was paid for the reception of the pallium as early as the sixth century. This was abrogated by Pope Gregory the Great in the Roman Synod of 595, but was reintroduced later as partial maintenance of the Holy See. These pallium contributions have often been, since the Middle Ages, the subject of embittered controversies, the attitude of many critics being indefensibly extreme and unjustifiable.

Character and Significance

As early as the sixth century the pallium was considered a liturgical vestment to be used only in the church, and indeed only during Mass, unless a special privilege determined otherwise. This is proved conclusively by the correspondence between Gregory the Great and John of Ravenna concerning the use of the pallium. The rules regulating the original use of the pallium cannot be determined with certainty but its use, even before the sixth century, seems to have had a definite liturgical character. From early times more or less extensive restrictions limited the use of the pallium to certain days. Its indiscriminate use, permitted to Hincmar of Reims by Leo IV (851) and to Bruno of Cologne by Agapetus II (954) was contrary to the general custom. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, just as today, the general rule was to limit the use of the pallium to a few festivals and some other extraordinary occasions. The symbolic character now attached to the pallium dates back to the time when it was made an obligation for all metropolitans to petition the Holy See for permission to use it. The evolution of this character was complete about the end of the eleventh century; thenceforth the pallium is always designated in the papal Bulls as the symbol of plenitudo pontificalis officii . In the sixth century the pallium was the symbol of the papal office and the papal power, and for this reason Pope Felix transmitted his pallium to his archdeacon, when, contrary to custom, he nominated him his successor. On the other hand, when used by metropolitans, the pallium originally signified simply union with the Apostolic See, and was the symbol of the ornaments of virtue which should adorn the life of the wearer.

Formal Development

There is a decided difference between the form of the modern pallium and that in vogue in early Christian times, as portrayed in the Ravenna mosaics. The pallium of the sixth century was a long, moderately wide, white band, ornamented at its extremity with a black or red cross, and finished off with tassels; it was draped around the neck, shoulders, and breast in such a manner that it formed a V in front, and the ends hung down from the left shoulder, one in front and one behind (see illustration). In the eighth century it became customary to let the ends fall down, one in the middle of the breast and the other in the middle of the back, and to fasten them there with pins, the pallium thus becoming Y-shaped. A further development took place during the ninth century (according to pictoral representations, at first outside of Rome where ancient traditions were not maintained so strictly): the band, which had hither to been kept in place by the pins, was sewed Y-shaped, without, however, being cut. The present circular form originated in the tenth or eleventh century. Two excellent early examples of this form, belonging respectively to Archbishop St. Heribert (1021) and Archbishop St. Anno (d. 1075), are preserved in Siegburg, Archdiocese of Cologne. The two vertical bands of the circular pallium were very long until the fifteenth century, but were later repeatedly shortened until they now have a length of only about twelve inches. The illustration indicates the historical development of the pallium. At first the only decorations on the pallium were two crosses near the extremities. This is proved by the mosaics at Ravenna and Rome. It appears that the ornamentation of the pallium with a greater number of crosses did not become customary until the ninth century, when small crosses were sewed on the pallium, especially over the shoulders. There was, however, during the Middle Ages no definite rule regulating the number of crosses, nor was there any precept determining their colour. They were generally dark, but sometimes red. The pins, which at first served to keep the pallium in place, were retained as ornaments even after the pallium was sewed in the proper shape, although they no longer had any practical object. That the insertion of small leaden weights in the vertical ends of the pallium was usual an early as the thirteenth century is proved by the discovery in 1605 of the pallium enveloping the body of Boniface VIII, and by the fragments of the pallium found in the tomb of Clement IV.

Origin

There are many different opinions concerning the origin of the pallium. Some trace it to an investiture by Constantine the Great (or one of his successors); others consider it an imitation of the Hebrew ephod, the humeral garment of the high priest. Others again declare that its origin is traceable to a mantle of St. Peter, which was symbolical of his office as supreme pastor. A fourth hypothesis finds its origin in a liturgical mantle, which, they assert, was used by the early popes, and which in the course of time was folded in the shape of a band; a fifth says its origin dates from the custom of folding the ordinary mantle-pallium, an outer garment in use in imperial times; a sixth declares that it was introduced immediately as a papal liturgical garment, which, however, was not at first a narrow strip of cloth, but, as the name suggests, a broad, oblong, and folded cloth. Concerning these various hypotheses see Braun, "Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient," sect. iv, ch. iii, n. 8, where these hypotheses are exhaustively examined and appraised. To trace it to an investiture of the emperor, to the ephod of the Jewish high-priest, or to a fabled mantle of St. Peter, is entirely inadmissible. The correct view may well be that the pallium was introduced as a liturgical badge of the pope, and it does not seem improbable that it was adopted in imitation of its counterpart, the pontifical omophorion, already in vogue in the Eastern Church.

OMOPHORION

The omophorion of the Greek Rite -- we may here pass over the other Oriental rites -- corresponds to the Latin pallium, with the difference that in the Greek Rite its use is a privilege not only of archbishops, but of all bishops. It differs in form from the Roman pallium. It is not a circular garment for the shoulders, with short pendants before and behind, but is, like the original Roman pallium, a broad band, ornamented with crosses and draped loosely over the neck, shoulders, and breast. The only change in the omophorion has been the augmentation of its width. We find distinct testimony to the existence of the omophorion as a liturgical vestment of the bishop in Isidore of Pelusium about 400. It was then made of wool and was symbolical of the duties of bishops as shepherds of their flocks. In the miniatures of an Alexandrian "Chronicle of the World", written probably during the fifth century we already find pictorial representation of the omophorion. In later times we meet the same representation on the renowned ivory tablet of Trier, depicting the translation of some relics. Among the pictures dating from the seventh and eighth centuries, in which we find the omophorion, are the lately discovered frescoes in S. Maria, Antiqua in the Roman Forum. The representation in these frescoes is essentially the same as its present form. Concerning the origin of the omophorion similar theories have been put forth as in the case of the pallium. Attempts have been made to prove that the omophorion was simply an evolution of the ordinary mantle or pallium, but it was most probably derived from the civil omophorion, a shoulder garment or shawl in general use. We must suppose either that the bishops introduced directly by a positive precept as a liturgical pontifical badge a humeral cloth resembling the ordinary omophorion and called by that name, or that the civil omophorion was at first used by the bishops as a mere ornament without any special significance, but in the course of time gradually developed into a distinctively episcopal ornament, and finally assumed the character of an episcopal badge of office.


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