1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tiara

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TIARA (Gr. τιάρα), also called regnum, triregnum and corona, the papal crown, a bee-hive shaped, somewhat bulging head-covering, ornamented with three crowns (whence triregnum or “triple crown”). It has no sacral character, being solely the ensign of sovereign power (cf. Innocent III. Serm. vii. in S. Silvest: “Pontifex romanus in signum imperii utitur regno ”), and is therefore never worn at liturgical functions, when the pope always wears the mitre. The tiara is first mentioned, under the name of camelaucum, in the Vita of Pope Constantine (d. 715), and next under the name of pileus phrygius or phrygium, or the Constitutum Constantini, the so-called “Donation of Constantine.” In the 9th century it appears in the 9th Ordo of Mabillon in connexion with the description of the consecration of the pope. On papal coins it first appears on those of Sergius III. (d. 911) and then on those of Benedict VII. (d. 983).

EB1911 Tiara.png

 Drawn by Father Joseph Braun, S.J.

Figure to illustrate the development of the Tiara.

At this period it was, according to the Ordo above mentioned, a sort of cap of white stuff, and helmet-shaped. Before the 9th century the tiara was certainly without any crown; any such ornament would not have been in keeping with the circumstances of the time, and seems also to be excluded by the terms of the Constitutum Constantini. It is quite uncertain when the crown was first added. It is true that Mabillon’s 9th Ordo calls this head-gear regnum, but it appears to know nothing of a crown. The papal coins and a few pictures of the 10th and 11th centuries leave it doubtful whether the ornamental band at the lower edge of the tiara is intended to represent a crown or merely a decorative orphrey (aurifrisium). At the beginning of the 12th century, however, the papal tiara was already decorated with a circlet, as the Ordo of Benedict (c. 1140) and statements made by Bruno of Segni and Suger, abbot of St Denys, prove; but it is only in representations of the tiara dating from the late 13th century that the circlet appears as a regular spiked crown. The two pendants at the back of the tiara (caudae, infulae) are likewise only traceable to this period. The second circlet was added by Boniface VIII., as is proved by three statues executed during his lifetime (one in the Lateran church and two in the crypt of St Peter’s). Perhaps this was due only to the pope’s love of display, but possibly the two crowns were intended to symbolize Boniface’s views as to the twofold nature of the papal authority. In the inventory of the papal treasury made in 1316 the tiara is described as having three crowns; the third must therefore have been added under Benedict XI. or Clement V. The monumental effigy of Benedict XI. in S. Domenico at Perugia still has a tiara with one circlet in the antique fashion of the 13th century; that of John XXII. showed only two crowns. The earliest monumental effigy of a pope giving an example of a triple-crowned tiara is now, therefore, that of Benedict XII. (d. 1342), of which the head is preserved in the museum at Avignon, while an effigy of the same pope in the crypt of St Peter's at Rome has a tiara with only two crowns. Since Benedict XII. the triple-crowned tiara has appeared regularly on the monuments of the popes. The crowns are essentially uniform, though the ornament varies (leaves or spikes).

Outside Rome it was still a considerable time before the triple-crowned tiara appeared in representations of the popes, and as late as the 15th century they are sometimes pictured with the single-crowned tiara. The reason for the addition of the third crown is unknown. The symbolism now attached to the triple crown (authority over heaven, earth and hell, or the temporal power and the powers of binding and loosing) is certainly not the original explanation.

Several baseless hypotheses have been advanced as to the origin of the papal tiara. In all probability the camelaucum, the oldest form of the tiara, came into use under the Greek and Syrian popes of the 7th, or the beginning of the 8th century, perhaps even under Pope Constantine himself. The prototype of the camelaucum must undoubtedly be sought at Constantinople in the head-ornament forming part of the Byzantine court costume. (J. Bra.)