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, "Pater Sancte, 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 mine enemy!

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

Also appears during Pierre's admittance into the Freemasons in Leo Tolstoi's War and Peace

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 phrase was also 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.

In the movie Foul Play, starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, Hawn's character is named Gloria Mundy.

A New York Daily News story about the 1980 state transit bailout was published under the headline "Sick Transit's Glorious Monday."

The phrase was uttered by Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey, Series 6, episode 1 as she and the family entered Mallerton Hall, the ancestral home of the Darnley's, who are auctioning off its contents because of a financial problem in 1925.

Analogous sayings[edit]

There are countless sayings in various languages expressing the same sentiment; in English most idiomatic is "All that's fair must fade," following a line of Thomas Moore. In Romanian, "Toate cele frumoase, poartă și ponoase".

Within Buddhism, the corresponding doctrine is impermanence. In East Asian Buddhism, the analogous saying is the four-character idiom 盛者必衰 (Japanese: jōsha hissui), from a passage in the Humane King Sutra, 「盛者必衰、実者必虚」, which translates as "The prosperous inevitably decline, the full inevitably empty". In Japan this is well-known due to its use is the opening line of The Tale of the Heike, whose latter half reads "the color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline." (沙羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰の理を顯す Sarasōju no hana no iro, jōshahissui no kotowari wo arawasu?).[9]

See also[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 Check |url= value (help), 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 
  9. ^ Chapter 1.1, Helen Craig McCullough's translation