cardinalatial stuff

If you were a Cardinal of Holy Roman Church before they started hacking away at the cappa magna and eliminating this and that, … say you were Desiré-Félicien-François-Joseph S.R.E. Card. Mercier (+1926), Archbishop of Mechelen, Cardinal-Priest of S. Pietro in Vincoli, here is some of the stuff you would have to have in your wardrobe just to get through your routine liturgical and non liturgical events.

Click for a larger view.

That’s a lot of stuff.

"But Father! But Father!", some of you are surely saying, even perhaps shouting at the screen.  "Some of those things are too dark.  They look purple.  That can’t be cardinalatial gear. No sirree.  It must be from before he was a cardinal!"

Au contraire, mes amis, au contraire.

At penitential times, prelates would downgrade their colors.  Cardinals would shift from the orangy-red, to the darker almost indigo color.  Of course the shades varied, but the idea was that they wore a penitential or a mourning color.

Roman Biretta (no pompom) tip    {]:¬)     to my friend John Sonnen for the pic.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andy K. says:

    Oh, if Pope Benedict would bring back the glory to our prelates’ attire!

  2. cuaguy says:

    Can he “undo” the document that took that all away?

  3. cauguy: In an instant. Should he?

  4. Maureen says:

    Does Gammarelli’s need a financial stimulus? :)

  5. Eddie Olsen says:

    This is really wonderful, however they forgot something fundamental to the vesture of a Cardinal. The rose watered silk choir habit for Gaudete and Laetare. Hopefully the restoration of prelatial dress is not too far off…

  6. cuaguy says:

    Fr. Z,

    Baby steps.
    I think that instead of making it mandatory, maybe something like an option for those that would like to wear it.

  7. Fr. BJ says:

    Clerical bling already costs a fortune (for the rather smallish wardrobe that prelates must have now). Imagine how much the above would cost in today’s dollars!

  8. Joseph says:

    Is that a Pallium that I spy? After all of the discussion concerning the Holy Father’s new pallium design, it appears that his current design is remarkably like what the old Cardinal had, although both are quite different from what John Paul II and everybody else wore. What gives?

  9. Ricky Vines says:

    Looks like some of the stuff in my wife’s closet.

  10. Sharon says:

    As Fr BJ says ‘clerical bling’. The MSM would foam at the mouth, and rightly so, with clergy spending so much money on their attire. Wouldn’t the money be better off spent on the poor is the cry which would resound throughout the land.The day when the clergy could get away with wearing such opulent clothing is long gone. Note that I am not speaking here of vestments for the Sacrifice of the Mass.

  11. James says:

    I am wondering what all those orders and decorations represent.

  12. PMcGrath says:

    It’s not just clerical bling. If you expand the picture, you can see H.E. had a number of orders and medals, more than likely some of those were State orders of some kind or other — surely some of our readers know about orders and medals, don’t they?

  13. James says:

    I do recognize a French Croix de Guerre, and the medal of a Knight Grand cross of the Belgian Order of Leopold, but that’s all I recognize off hand.

  14. I would check on the purple Fr. Z. My understanding is that it was worn during the interegnum between popes as a sign of mourning. The red returned right after the the new Pope was elected.

    I don’t know when the purple disappeared. It is not mentioned in “Ut Sive Sollicite.”

  15. @ Ricky Vines,

    Then your wife is a “weirdo” for wearing things that she should not wear! Since when women wear capes nowadays!? Since when do they wear hats nowadays?

  16. Folks: If you get weird I will boot you.

  17. Genna says:

    At Westminster Cathedral in London, UK, the galero of John, Card. Heenan is suspended from the ceiling above his grave, which is next to the 12th Station of the Cross. The tradition is that when a Cardinal’s galero falls, his soul has reached Heaven. I understand there are galeri hanging in US cathedrals and elsewhere. Can anyone confirm this?
    I’m sorry the galero went; suspending a biretta would just look silly.

  18. Father Bartoloma says:

    That picture is from a wonderful large old book on Cardinal Mercier with dozens and dozens of fantastic pictures. I recognize it because it was in the library of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary when I was in theology. I and another seminarian would routinely delve into the book and weep over what has been lost.

  19. Ricky Vines says:

    latinmass1983: Watch what you type and respect people. That’s one thing I find common with these Latin Mass types, they’re so un-Christlike and mean spirited. So, get a second opinion (not from a Tridentine fan) and see if the colors and style do not remind him of certain items of clothing. Recall the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? But watch what you write because I was offended by your comment about my wife!

  20. Kells says:

    Thank you for this post, it is interesting to see what Cardinals used to wear. I am wondering, with all due respect, why there is such a strong desire among many to see a return of the Cappa Magna. I am all for the use of the Extraordinary Form, and am the first one to say that we need to restore dignity to the vestments used for mass and other liturgical rites, but I do also acknowledge that there were some vestures of the prelate that were indeed in need of reformation. While a Cappa Magna with a twenty foot train may have been the historical garment of the day, I get embarrassed when I see Cardinals today walking around in them. [?]

  21. Vincent says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who noticed the absence of rose choir vestments!

  22. Vincent says:


    Prelates do not “walk around” in cappa magna. They are used under precise liturgical circumstances. This is not about our bishops desiring to look medieval.

  23. puella says:

    Last year when I visited Manila Cathedral there was a cardinal’s hat hanging from the ceiling.

    Fr.Z – that is a BRILLIANT image. Thanks so much for sharing it (also to Mr. Sonnen for the original! He does great work in his blog!).

  24. It looks like there are three cappae magnae – scarlet, indigo, and violet. I suspect that the violet one is for poenitential seasons, but why the indigo?

    Also, does anyone know what the big watered-silk vestment in the foreground on the left is?

    All in all, I’m not sure this display is so terribly opulent. Besides the various secular orders, which are somewhat irrelevant in this context, I can count a galero, 3 cappae magnae, 2 ferraiuoli, saturno, mitre, biretta, liturgical and non-liturgical gloves, pallium, and crozier. To this should be added choir dress: scarlet cassock, rochet, and mozzetta plus zucchetto, which I can’t see here. As far as I know, the galero is the only one of these items which has been formally suppressed, while the cappa magna, ferraiuolo, gloves, and saturno have largely fallen into disuse.

    I’d say that apart from one or two items, this selection is quite suitable for a senior prelate of the Church. One can always discuss whether the cappa magna really has to be that long etc. but bottom line is, most of these items are liturgical wear which signify that the bearer is the representative of the divine majesty in the community, and accordingly they must assist in visualizing that reality.

    Jesus did come into this world humble and naked, but He is now glorified, and He must also be glorified through His Church.

  25. SMJ says:

    I read somewhere that some roman princess were very generous and took the furnishing of the wardrobe of a prelate as an act of charity…

  26. John Enright says:

    You learn something new each day. I didn’t know that Cardinals downshifted to more solemn colors during Advent and Lent. Thanks, Father!

  27. Guy Power says:

    Regarding one of the Orders: Center bottom is the Grand Cross (and Star) of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun. Here is a better image from Wikipedia:

    –Guy Power

  28. HQD says:

    Gideon Ertner, I think that long garment in the front is the choir cassock all in watered-silk, these days it’s only the cuffs that are in watered silk. Thanks for the photo Fr. Z.!

  29. Eddie Olsen says:

    On a somewhat related note, does anyone know what the proper length of the train of the choir cassock of a Cardinal was or where one can go to find this information? I am working on a thesis project and this information would be very helpful.

  30. Clinton says:

    I’ve little experience with the more rarefied strata of the hierarchy, but what I’ve seen suggests that at least
    some of our prelates who are exact in maintaining the marks of their office in all its magnificence do, at the
    end of the day, live rather humbly. The contrast between the public and private life moves me.

    A priest I know had the honor years ago to act as driver for then-Cardinal Ratzinger. He wishes he knew where
    that old Toyota Corolla is now because he’s convinced that in the future that jalopy will be a second-class relic.

  31. Is this where the Italian “Porporato” comes in in reference to a Cardinal?

  32. J.Haye says:

    In seeing the red cardinal’s galero, it made me wonder: when did the green galero cease to be used outside of a bishop’s coat of arms? I know that even before Paul VI’s reforms cardinals had long ceased actually wearing the galero. When was use of the green galero stopped? Does anyone have a clue? Was there ever a time where a bishop was “invested” with one similarly to when a cardinal had his imposed during the consistory?

  33. Fr K says:


    The cappa magna is not restricted to the OF in fact its use is widened in the new Ceremonial of Bishops, for those who wish to use it. An interesting note from ancient folklore. Yes it is true that the galero was suspended above the deceased Cardinal’s tomb and according to popular belief, that when the strings suspending it finally gave way, the late Cardinal’s soul quit Purgatory and entered into its eternal reward. Some cathedral chapters, who perhaps had ‘issues’ with the deceased cardinal would renew, from time to time, the strings….

  34. Antiquarian says:

    The galeros (galeri?) of Cardinals O’Boyle and Hickey are suspended in St Matthew’s Cathedral in DC. I remember whn Cardinal O’Boyle retired and then-Archbishop Baum took over in the early 1970s. He always began Mass wearing elaborate gloves, which O’Boyle had never used in my memory. After a year`or so he stopped wearing them.

  35. irishgirl says:

    Wow-those are really cool!

  36. Caeremoniarius says:

    @ Eddie Olsen:

    As the rose choral attire of Cardinals had disappeared by 1943 (the year that the “Norme ceremoniali” of the S. Congregation of the Ceremonial were published), one could hardly call these garments “fundamental”!

  37. Eddie Olsen says:


    You are of course correct that the rose choral habit of Cardinals is no longer fundamental from a legal standpoint in the same manner that the choir cassock, the Cardinal’s mantelletta, et c. haven’t been legally fundamental since the 1960’s. I would argue, however; that all of these wonderful things that have been lost over the past few decades are culturally fundamnetal. They are a part of our history and need to be treated with great care and respect. Being an Art Historian understanding the usage of such articles is fundamental to my field, as they are so prevalent in the art of the Church until the mid-twentieth century. My senior thesis focused on the presence of the train of the choir cassock in portraits and my Master’s thesis will focus on the use of the rose choral habit in Roman Cardinatial portratis. So some of us still see the rose choral habit as being fundamnetal.

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