Sometimes a photo is worth 5000 thousands words.

You might have heard of this, but, since I have been traveling and using the interwebs less than usual in the last couple weeks, it was news to me.

A member of the Macedonian parliament brought a gift to Pope Francis from the Orthodox convent of St. George of Rajcica: a papal tiara, the triple crown symbol of the Bishop of Rome’s authority over just about everything. Women, nuns, lovingly made it by hand, embroidering it and setting it with pearls from a lake near their convent.

Such a beautiful gift! I am sure the Holy Father beamed with delight. After all, Benedict XVI did when he was presented with a small version of a tiara, even though Pope Francis is the first Pope who – as the press acknowledges – ever smiled.

Sometimes a photo is worth 5000 thousands words.* And, these days, they remain easily accessible.

His Holiness didn’t too happy with the tiara, which was lovingly made by women.

Remember when the Pope was in South America and he received the “crucifix” in the style of a global symbol of the violation of human rights?

Okay… a photo out of context doesn’t tell the whole story.

*Adjusted for Holy See Word Inflation.


Yes, as it turns out there are other photos of the Pope with the tiara.

It must be difficult to be a dignitary who receives gifts all the time.  For my part, I have had  on many occasions to put on a smile and nod and make pleasing sounds when receiving some things.  But what someone like the Pope of Rome must do constantly is different by orders of magnitude.

Meanwhile, I think the choice by Orthodox of a tiara as a gift to the Pope of Rome was pretty interesting.

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  1. Hank Igitur says:

    True but it in fact tells enough of the story. Also, his refusal to wear the red papal shoes indicates his ignorance that they represent the supreme pontiff’s willingness to shed his blood for Christ, which he incorrectly confuses with pride of ornamentation.

    [I’d like to see the red shoes back too, but really …. I suspect that His Holiness prefers his old custom made shoes which probably really help him stay on his feet. Hard to blame him.]

  2. kurtmasur says:

    Who knows, maybe Francis will let himself be surprised by the Holy Spirit and actually will want to wear his papal tiara, surprising us as well :-)

  3. Father K says:

    Have they not noticed in Macedonia that the papal tiara has not been worn since 1963? I suppose this one will end up in the Vatican museum or the Pope may follow his predecessor Paul VI who sold it to raise money for the poor, [it was made especially for him and paid for by the people of Milan, his former See. It was later seen adorning an socialite’s head at a cocktail party in New York. Embarrassed church officials bought it off her and it is now on display in the, I think, Smithsonian Institute]. Paul VI was the Pope of extravagant and as things usually panned out, futile gestures. Only this time Pope Francis will probably donate the money to help illegal immigrants posing as refugees.

    As for the scowl, I recall when he was elected he was presented with a spiritual bouquet and his less than gracious comment included a reference to neo-pelagianists. He would be a difficult man to by a present for, Christmas or birthday, he would find something wrong with it.

  4. tgarcia2 says:

    hmm…smiling here

    a lot of room for a lot of interpretation…..

  5. John Ed says:

    I once gave a Rosary to an evangelical Christian friend. He managed to smile courteously.

  6. albizzi says:

    The Pope Francis looks very enthusiastic, as much as the Pope Paul VI when he decided to get rid of the use of the centuries old tiara. The triple tiara was a gift to Paul VI from the people of Milan where Paul VI had served as archbishop and was valued (in 1964 US Dollars) at $12,000. It weighed 3 lbs and was made of gold, silver, and studded with jewels.
    The question now is: Will Francis reinstate the use of the tiara, beginning himself ?
    In my opinion this gift of our orthodox brothers is a good omen for their conversion to the True Catholic Faith, once the Consecration of Russia to the IHM will be performed by the Pope.
    Will Francis be the Pope who will do it ?

  7. jhayes says:

    At his inauvguration as Pope, JP II explained why it was an inauguration and not a coronation, where he would have been crowned with the tiara

    4. In past centuries, when the Successor of Peter took possession of his See, the triregnum or tiara was placed on his head. The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard.

    Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes.

    Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

  8. Rosary Rose says:

    Interesting. I read the Holy Father’s body language as extreme reverence and awe at this remarkable gift. His hand is delicately touching the top, his shoulders are curved, completely focused on the object before him.

    He is not grimacing; he is speechless. That may be the confusion.

    Let’s pray for more tiaras. Or at least, show him this one again before he writes or says anything.

  9. DeGaulle says:

    I’m glad you qualified this article with your last sentence. A photograph only captures a moment, and perhaps the pose captures a serious one. I always thought that Pope Francis looked a little bemused and uncertain upon receiving that defaced ‘crucifix’, but it is hard to be sure.

  10. Janol says:

    Reminds me — How was the bullfight? :)

    [Fights, as it turns out. Fantastic! I’d happily go again. Next time I’ll bring cigars.]

  11. CradleRevert says:

    I think this was just a case of the photo being taken at the wrong moment. There’s another picture of him at this link looking much more joyful about the gift.

  12. That is very funny, Father!

    That said, I did see a picture of the Holy Father, receiving this gift, in which he was smiling.

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    That is a wonderful and moving gift, Orthodox nuns gifting him a triple-crown tiara. Don’t Orthodox prelates wear headgear that is kind of similar and their version of a miter? Maybe the nuns make those type of headgear and this is their “Patriarch of Rome” version? What a work of art.

    He doesn’t always smile at every moment and his “neutral” expression sometimes looks a little sour when it is not, we all know Pope Francis is not the tiara-wearing sort, but it MAY not be fair to interpret that the picture is capturing a negative reaction. He has reached out and is touching it. His expression may reflect that it is a thought provoking gift. The hammer and sickle crucifix does not require any thought. It sort of hits you over the head with a hammer and sickle.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    I am glad this post was updated. I read about this when it first made news, and the photo at the time showed a beaming and appreciative Holy Father.

    And that photo from South America… His Holiness’ smile seems fake to me…

  15. TWF says:

    Yes, Byzantine rite bishops (Orthodox or Catholic) wear gloriously beautiful elaborate mitres modelled on the imperial crown of the Byzantine Emperor. The Pope vests more shabbily, I imagine, than many Orthodox bishops of poor, rural eparchies….

  16. Nan says:

    Father K, the gift is no doubt a result of noticing that the Papal tiara has fallen into disuse. If he really wants the two churches to be in communion with one another, he needs to dress better.

    Elizabeth D, the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Bishops dress in the style of Byzantine royalty. The mitre is modeled after the Byzantine crown.

  17. PostCatholic says:

    Father K, I hadn’t heard the socialite story before. The tale I’ve heard is that prior to its sale, Cardinal Spellman arranged that the tiara be given to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, where it remains. It’s in a display case opposite the entrance to the crypt chapel. It’s a spectacularly ugly object, in my opinion, and it’s not a triregno but has four crowns for some reason. I’d love to know more about the photo you mention. I wonder if there was a private donation arranged for the exchanged and the benefactor is the one wearing it?

    I had a friend who had a chrome trashcan-with-spigot on a brass stand, with “Holy Water” in brass gothic letters affixed to it. I guess he got it at a church sell-off. It was a spectacular ice bucket–I can still see the wine and champagne bottles in it at his parties. Couldn’t agree more the label in that instance!

  18. Supertradmum says:

    This “open” pope may be just the one to bring in the Orthodox and the SSPX. One can only hope…

  19. NIdahoCatholic says:

    An autographed copy of “Das Kapital” would probably be well received.

  20. mburn16 says:

    Fantastic! I wondered whether we would see a “Franciscan Tiara”, considering how his style is notably devoid of liturgical pomp.

    Probably the best of the Vatican II-era tiara’s so far. Frankly, both the Paul VI and JPII tiaras looked more like ammunition than royal headgear.

  21. Tiber Swimmer 2012 says:

    NICEA 2025!!!!!!!!!!

    ….”sine intermissione orate”……

  22. Father Bartoloma says:

    Why not give him a glass hammer?

  23. Augustine says:

    Elizabeth, you’re quite right. Orthodox bishops wear mitres that are, in effect, Byzantine-style crowns. One wonders (and hopes) that this is an ecumenical gesture with actual theological content, as opposed to the usual trendy gesture-politics. After all, John Paul II and Benedict XVI both encouraged the Orthodox Churches to help Rome reflect on the history of the Papacy, especially in the first millennium; perhaps this is a reminder that the Orthodox Churches agree with John Paul II’s implication that the Papal tiara and Orthodox mitres are spiritual rather than temporal crowns.

  24. Pingback: Talking Pictures | Mundabor's Blog

  25. frjim4321 says:

    [Fights, as it turns out. Fantastic! I’d happily go again. Next time I’ll bring cigars.]

    I’m happy to hear that!

    [Okay… let’s meet in Madrid sometime and I’ll buy the cigars. Bullfights are amazing events.]

  26. Jack007 says:

    It sort of hits you over the head with a hammer and sickle.

    Nicely played, Elizabeth! LOL
    Jack in KC

  27. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Elizabeth D,

    The Orthodoxwiki “Miter” article has a nice photo – and borrows another illustration from Joseph Braun’s Catholic Encyclopedia article at New Advent, to which it links, as well! Fr. Braun has an interesting “Tiara” article at New Advent, too! For anyone who can read (or likes to try puzzling through) German, his Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient; nach Ursprung und Entwicklung, Verwendung und Symbolik (which he references in his “Miter” article) is scanned in the Internet Archive.


    Thanks for the link, which gave me the info to try to explore further!

    I wonder what language Trajko Veljanovski and Pope Francis are speaking as they look at the tiara? He studied at the Saints Cyril and Methodius University, and its Wikipedia article says, “there are a number of courses which are carried out in English, German, French, Italian”! I suspect that the Holy Father is just listening intently. These visits seem to be annual events related to the Orthodox Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius – there are older YouTube films of Trajko Veljanovski with Pope Benedict as well as with Pope Francis (who, in one, looks equally serious welcoming the Bulgarian P.M., Marin Raykov, during a joint visit).

    But, boy does the Orthodox Church situation in Macedonia look complicated (there are probably church-political wheels within wheels where these visits are involved)!

  28. Sword40 says:

    I love the Bullfights. Truly a wonderful event. Fascinating history involved here.

  29. Father G says:

    Byzantine miter made by same nuns:


    It’s interesting that it would be nuns from the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC). This particular Church separated from the Serbian Orthodox Church following the breakup of Yugoslavia and is not in communion with any of the other Eastern Orthodox Churches.

    There was a rumor that the MOC made overtures to Rome for union during the pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul II, but that it was refused, most likely so as not to upset the rest of Eastern Orthodoxy. Could this tiara be an overture once again?

    There are Macedonian Byzantine Catholics numbering a little over 11, 000.

  30. Michael_Thoma says:

    As poster’s here may or may not know, the self-labelled “Macedonian Orthodox Church” is considered non-canonical by most Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions. At one time, quite recently, the entire Church petitioned to join the Catholic Communion as an Eastern Catholic Church, and was denied, so as to be sensitive to EO Churches. I, for one, in an alternate universe where my option counts, would have allowed it in this rare instance, as they are not recognized by worldwide Orthodoxy anyway. It seems that the feelings of admiration and respect for Rome, in some circles of the MOC have not diminished.

    [Interesting information.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  31. Gaz says:

    I always thought that Papa Benedict should have donned his tiara at least to have blessed the benefactors. Now I can say the same of Papa Francis. A beautiful a fitting gift.

  32. Maineman1 says:

    The Macedonians will be waiting in vain for the Vatican to pursue their conversion. Our Pope preaches the “ecumenism of blood”, where by Christians of all denominations are united in Christ through the blood of multi-deno.inational martyrs. So, conversion is no longer necessary.

    That view has gradually grown on me.

  33. Father G says:

    Here is the Rome Reports video of the Macedonian delegation meeting Pope Francis:

    Archbishop Stephen, primate and spiritual leader of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, is shown embracing His Holiness. There is no mention of the tiara.

    This is video of the convent where the tiara was made:

  34. Father G says:

    Before anyone begins to think–based on what happened with the Macedonian Orthodox Church’s desire to unite with Rome– that mass conversions of Eastern Orthodox Christians to Catholicism is forbidden, I would like to point out that there is an eparchy (diocese) of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that is in the process of uniting with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church:

  35. Ben Kenobi says:

    Interesting story! I did not know about the Macedonian Orthodox church. I can’t imagine the folks in the age of the Austrian Empire thinking such a thing would ever occur.

  36. Nan says:

    Ben Kenobi, had Macedonia been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, they’d have been Catholic long ago. See, Union of Brest and Uzhorod, the agreements having taken place roughly 400 yrs ago in which formerly Orthodox lands got a new, Catholic, landlord that didn’t want Orthodox tenants. They cut a deal with the bishops so that the people could retain their Orthodox traditions and become Catholic, which is the origin of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

  37. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Father G, Michael_Thoma, and Nan,

    Thank you for all the additional information!

    Curiously, the Orthodoxwiki has conveniently linked diaspora diocese articles, where Wikipedia leaves you to search for them.

    It sure seems a sad, messy situation – heading for its 49th anniversary in a little over a month! I can see the Holy Father and ‘Vatican’ not wanting to end up in a ‘cross-fire’ (as it were), while being friendly to disputants and hoping (and, who knows, working) for an amicable solution. (I wonder how sections 24-25 of the February “Joint Declaration” might (in practice, at least) affect the range of possible solutions?)

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