QUAERITUR: Where’s the papal pallium pin?

From a reader:

I have been watching the papal liturgies on EWTN  for several years. I recently noticed that when the Pope Benedict is wearing the pallium he SEEMS to be missing a pin/nail on the red cross over his right shoulder.
I can’t believe that the MC has forgotten this detail for several recent celebrations nor can I believe that, if lost, that a spare doesn’t exist.

Therefore, I am wondering if there is some kind of symbolism here that I don’t understand. Can you briefly, I know that you are very busy, tell me why the pin is missing on the papal pallium?

Frankly, I hadn’t noticed.


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  1. David Grondz says:

    The pallium has only three pins: Front, back and left shoulder.

  2. The pins today are ceremonial in function, but their presence goes back back to a time when the Pallium was actually draped a certain way and held in place with pins. They were never meant to be symmetrical.

  3. Rudy of CC says:

    The pins were in place at Midnight Mass. See the NLM photos of MN Mass.

  4. JGKester says:

    The Pallium traditionally never SHOULD have a pin on the right shoulder. When the new pallium was first introduced it mistakenly did have one there, but this was subsequently removed. Read the article on the development of the pallium at NLM to understand why.

  5. Marc says:

    Have to say that the scenario in which ‘something gets lost in the Vatican Palace and can’t be found… and there’s no spare available’ is pretty amusing. I see the basis for a new sitcom.

  6. Brendan says:

    I actually noticed that looking at pictures of a recent Mass. I think that was the Epiphany Mass.

  7. Fr. Gjengdahl says:

    As I recall, the pallium would have five crosses for the five wounds of Christ and have three pins which represent the three nails of Christ on the crucifix. That’s what I have always been told.

  8. Alessandro says:

    David Grondz is right. The pallium is hold in place by only three pins: front, back and left shoulder. With the former pallium, the long one, there was some fuss around the pins, but now they have gone to their proper places. So the pope doesn’t lack any pin!

  9. GJP says:


    Here is John Paul II – with pins on the front and left shoulder, and not on the right shoulder.

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