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Tintinnabulum in the Basilica of the Holy Blood
Tintinnabulum in the Basilica of San Francisco

A tintinnabulum (roughly "little bell" in Medieval Latin) is a bell mounted on a pole, placed in a Roman Catholic basilica to signify the church's link with the Pope.

The tintinnabulum consists of a small gold bell within a golden frame crowned with the papal tiara and Keys of Heaven. If the Pope were to say Mass within the basilica, the tintinnabulum would be used to lead the very special procession down the shrine's aisle. However, these symbols are not stipulated in the 1989 Vatican directives.

The tintinnabulum is one of the three physical signs which indicate that a church is a lesser basilica. The other two signs are conopaeum and a display of the papal symbol.[1]


In the Middle Ages it served the practical function of alerting the people of Rome to the approach of the Pope during papal processions.[citation needed]

The word is attested in the Appendix Probi as "tintinabulum", castigated by the author as an incorrect Vulgar Latin form of the Classical "tintinaculum".[2]


  1. ^ https://www.stspeterandpaulbasilica.com/what-makes-a-basilica
  2. ^ "Appendix Probi". www.ling.upenn.edu. Department of Linguistics - University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2017-05-25.


External links[edit]

Media related to Tintinnabulum at Wikimedia Commons