Sic transit gloria mundi

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Juan de Valdés Leal, Finis gloriae mundi (1672). Seville, Hospital de la Caridad

Sic transit gloria mundi is a Latin phrase that means "Thus passes the glory of the world." It has been interpreted as "Worldly things are fleeting." The phrase was used in the ritual of papal coronation ceremonies between 1409 (when it was used at the coronation of Alexander V)[1] and 1963. As the newly chosen pope proceeded from the sacristy of St. Peter's Basilica in his sedia gestatoria, the procession stopped three times. On each occasion a papal master of ceremonies would fall to his knees before the pope, holding a silver or brass reed, bearing a tow of smoldering flax. For three times in succession, as the cloth burned away, he would say in a loud and mournful voice, "Sancte Pater, sic transit gloria mundi!" ("Holy Father, so passes worldly glory!") These words, thus addressed to the pope, served as a reminder of the transitory nature of life and earthly honors. The stafflike instrument used in the aforementioned ceremony is known as a "sic transit gloria mundi", named for the master of ceremonies' words.[2][3][4] A form of the phrase appeared in Thomas à Kempis's 1418 work The Imitation of Christ: "O quam cito transit gloria mundi" ("How quickly the glory of the world passes away").[5][6]

Emily Dickinson used the line in a whimsical valentine written to William Howland in 1852 and subsequently published in the Springfield Daily Republican:[7]

Sic transit gloria mundi
How doth the busy bee,
Dum vivimus vivamus,
I stay my enemy!

This parodied her education by its use of stock phrases and morals.[8]

A slightly truncated version, "sic transit gloria," also appears in the Wes Anderson movie Rushmore. The phrase illustrates a central theme of the film. This in turn was used by the American rock band Brand New for the title of a song on their album Deja Entendu, "Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades," about the loss of sexual innocence.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Elizabeth Knowles, ed. (2005). The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860981-0. 
  2. ^ King, William Henry Francis (1904), 319 Classical and Foreign Quotations, London: J. Whitaker & Sons, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  3. ^ Richardson, Carol M., Reclaiming Rome: cardinals in the fifteenth century, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  4. ^ Bak, János M., Coronations: medieval and early modern monarchic ritual, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (via Oxford Reference) 
  6. ^ à Kempis, Thomas. "Book 1 Chapter 3". Imitation of Christ: translated from Latin into English. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved 11 November 2010. 
  7. ^ The poems of Emily Dickinson 3, Harvard University Press, 1998 
  8. ^ Ablow, Rachel (2010), The Feeling of Reading