Tiara of Pope Paul VI

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Pope Paul VI's Coronation Tiara, now in the Crypt of the The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Tiara of Pope Paul VI was the last papal tiara worn to date. It was donated by the see of Milan when its cardinal, Giovanni Montini, was elected Pope Paul VI in the 1963 papal conclave. It was this tiara that was used to crown Pope Paul VI in 1963, which was the last papal coronation to date. Previously, the Palatine Tiara had been used in coronations since 1877.

Distinctive design[edit]

Pope Paul's tiara was distinctive in many ways and may be generally characterised in the Art Deco style prevalent during the 1930s and 1940s. As with some other papal tiaras, it was made of a solid silver exterior over a felt lay. Unlike other tiaras, it was almost totally devoid of jewels, carvings or any intense ornamentations, with the three crowns represented by three rings that ran around the tiara, on which sat a handful of small jewels in isolation, in addition to the aquamarines set in the center of each of the fleur-de-lis which made up the gold circlet at the base of the tiara, giving it a simplistic modern style.


Though lacking in jewels, Pope Paul's tiara weighs 10 lb (4.5 kg), in contrast to the 2 lb (0.9 kg) weight of the previously-used Palatine Tiara.

Tiara given to the United States[edit]

Pope Paul wore his tiara a number of times in 1963, before, in a dramatic act in November 1963, laying it on the altar of St. Peter's Basilica in a gesture of humility to symbolise the papacy's surrender of any claim to temporal power. He never wore it again. It was announced that the tiara would be sold and the proceeds of the sale given to charity. However, Francis Spellman, Cardinal Archbishop of New York intervened and arranged instead for the tiara to be bought by the Catholic Church in the United States in 1968.

It is now on permanent display in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

"Surrender" of tiara praised and condemned[edit]

Pope Paul's decision to decline to wear his papal tiara won both praise and condemnation. Liberals and progressives within the church praised the act as being in step with the "sign of the times" and marking a rebirth of a new, more informal papacy. By contrast, conservatives criticised the act as a betrayal of the traditional papacy. Fringe groups[citation needed] associated with sedevacantist and conclavist organisations suggested that only an antipope would "surrender" the symbol of the papacy in a photo-opportunity, with some groups using Pope Paul's actions as evidence that he was not the true pope.[1]

Tiara not abolished[edit]

Pope Paul, while choosing not to wear his tiara, nevertheless never abolished the use of papal tiaras, explicitly requiring in his 1975 Apostolic Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo that his successor be crowned.[2] However, his successor, Pope John Paul I, after a major argument, refused to wear any tiara. Neither Popes John Paul II nor Benedict XVI opted to wear a papal tiara, though the option remains that successors to the papacy can do so if they so choose.[3]

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ The Montana-based sedevacanist true Catholic Church, among others, makes that claim.
  2. ^ Romano Pontifici Eligendo (1975), No. 92.
  3. ^ Universi Dominici Gregis (1996), No. 92.