Mary Ann Collins
There is another important Biblical requirement for being a bishop. The Apostle Peter said that all Church leaders were to serve the Christians under their care, and not “lord it” over people. In addition, they were not to seek riches (“filthy lucre”). Peter said,
In 314 A.D., Bishop Silvester was crowned by Emperor Constantine. Constantine wanted to have a state Church, with Christian clergy acting as civil servants. Bishop Silvester wanted to have the favor of the Roman Emperor instead of being persecuted.
Constantine gave Silvester a beautiful palace with the finest furniture and art. Silvester wore silk brocade robes and he had servants to wait on him. Near his palace was a cathedral which had seven altars made of gold, a canopy of solid silver above the main altar, and 50 chandeliers. Silvester was given the use of the imperial mail system and transportation system. [Note 1]
Churchmen wore purple robes, reflecting the purple of Constantine’s court. That was an external change. The most important change was an internal one. Under Bishop Silvester, the internal structure of the Church took on the form and practice and pomp of the Roman Emp*ire. Bishops dressed and acted like Roman emperors, and they had the same imperial attitude. [Note 2]
The power of the Bishops of Rome increased, and they called themselves popes. They lived in luxury, and they wanted to rule over both church and state. Imperial papacy reached its peak during the Middle Ages. Popes were rich and powerful, and they ruled over kings and emperors.
Pope Gregory VII reigned from 1073 to 1085. He excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV. In order to receive forgiveness from the Pope and to have the excommunication removed, Emperor Henry had to spend three days repenting in front of the castle where the Pope was staying. It was bitter cold (January 1077). Henry spent most of his time kneeling in the ice and snow, weeping and pleading for forgiveness. When Gregory finally allowed Henry to come into the castle, the Pope publicly humiliated the Emperor. [Note 3]
Pope Gregory VII declared that the Pope has the right to depose kings and emperors, to make laws, and to require secular rulers to kiss his feet. Gregory wanted to make the countries of Europe become feudal estates of the Pope, with all of the kings meekly obeying him. He said that he (and the orders he gave) could not be judged by earthly moral and ethical standards, because no man has the right to judge the Pope. Gregory also declared that because of the merits of Saint Peter, every duly elected Pope is a saint. Up until the time of Gregory VII, popes referred to themselves as the Vicar (representative) of St. Peter. Gregory changed that, calling himself the Vicar of Christ, a term which has been used by popes since then. [Note 4]
Pope Innocent III reigned from 1198 to 1216. He wore a gold crown covered with jewels. and sat upon a purple throne. His clothes sparkled with gold and jewels, and his horse was covered with scarlet. Kings and clergy kissed his foot. Innocent became the most powerful man in the world. Innocent said that he was “below God but above man.” He also said that God wanted him to govern the entire world. [Note 5]
Pope Boniface VIII reigned from 1294 to 1303. He said that he was Caesar, the Roman Emperor. He wore a crown which was covered with more than 200 costly jewels, including rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and large pearls. [Note 6] Boniface sought to further increase the Pope’s power and authority. In his encyclical Unam Sanctam, he said that no person can be saved unless he or she is subject to the Pope. Note 7]
Pope Paul II reigned from 1464 to 1471. He enjoyed luxurious living and had a tiara of gold that was covered with jewels. He had “Bacchanalian parades” that revived the pagan “carnival games” of ancient Rome. After the games, the people gathered in front of the Pope’s palace to eat, and then the Pope stood on his balcony and threw money to the crowd. [Note 8]
Pope Paul VI reigned from 1963 to 1978. He was the last Pope to wear the papal tiara. This is a triple crown, made of gold and covered with jewels. You can see pictures of the tiara online. [Note 9 ]
The Pope is an absolute monarch in the Vatican. He sits on an ornate throne. You can see pictures of the throne online. [Note 10]
Cardinals are called “princes of the Church .” They are citizens of the Vatican in addition to being citizens of their homelands. [Note 11]
Popes, cardinals and bishops wear gold and jewels. They wear rings and crosses. The Pope has a special ring known as the “Ring of the Fisherman .” He also has magnificent pontifical rings which he wears on special occasions. Cardinals have rings of sapphire and gold. They often have additional rings of their own choosing. [Note 12]
For special occasions, popes, cardinals, and bishops wear vestments that are decorated with gold or made of gold cloth. (This is cloth that is actually made of real gold.) Some vestments are studded with jewels. Even the gloves of high-ranking churchmen are decorated with gold. Such imperial splendor was prevalent during the Middle Ages, but it still exists today. During the Middle Ages, gloves were sometimes studded with jewels. But even in recent times, they are decorated with gold. Pope Pius XII reigned from 1939 to 1958. He had gloves and shoes that were decorated with gold. Some of his shoes had jewels on them. [Note 13]
In Saint Peter’s Basilica, there is a life-sized statue of Saint Peter, sitting on a papal throne. On the Feast Day of St. Peter, this statue wears pontifical vestments and the papal crown (tiara). The art book “Treasures of the Vatican” has a photograph of this statue wearing vestments of gold and scarlet, and a gold triple crown that is studded with large jewels. The National Geographic’s art book “Inside the Vatican” has a picture of the statue with a nun kissing its feet. The right foot has been worn smooth because so many people have kissed it. [Note 14]
Popes wear ermine (an expensive fur often worn by royalty). They have a special cape called a mozzetta which is trimmed with ermine. [Note 15]
For solemn occasions, popes use a portable throne called a “sedia gestatoria .” It is a richly adorned chair which is covered with silk. Long rods go through gold-covered rings. The throne is carried by twelve uniformed footmen. When the Pope celebrates solemn pontifical Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, he arrives in state, preceded by a procession of cardinals, bishops and prelates. The Pope is carried on the sedia gestatoria, with a canopy over him and special fans made of white feathers on either side of him. [Note 16]
Pope Pius XII reigned from 1939 to 1958. When Vatican officials came into his presence, they had to kneel while speaking with him, and leave the room walking backwards. When he telephoned Vatican officials, they had to drop to their knees with the phone in their hand and remain kneeling while they spoke to him. This was going on in 1958. That is only 50 years ago. [Note 17]
The Pope has a huge, luxurious palace. The Pontifical Palace, the Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica are filled with priceless paintings and statues. The architecture is rich and ornate. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo. In addition, there are 22 Vatican museums which are full of art treasures. Words are inadequate to convey the rich architectural complexity and the artistic elegance of the Pope’s palace, chapel, and church. Their opulence defies description. [Note 18]
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1. James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God ( Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), pp. 231-232. The author is a former Catholic.
2. Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History (translated by John Bowden) (New York: Modern Library, 2001, 2003), pp. 33-44. The author is a Catholic theologian.  Malachi Martin, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981), pp. 19-38. The author is a Catholic priest.
3. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1995), pp. 194-197.  Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Dublin, Ireland: Poolbeg Press, 1988), pp. 62-66.  Malachi Martin, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981), pp. 137-146. The author is a Catholic priest.
4. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, pp. 196-197, op. cit.  Claudio Rendina, The Popes: Histories and Secrets (Santa Ana, CA: Seven Locks Press, 2002), pp. 268-274, op. cit.  J.N.D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes ((New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 154-156.  Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to John Paul II (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2000), pp. 185-188.  Malachi Martin, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, p. 140, op. cit.
5. Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, pp. 66-69, op. cit.  Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 199., op. cit.  Claudio Rendina, The Popes: Histories and Secrets, pp. 309-316, op. cit.  J.N.D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, pp. 186-188, op. cit.  Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, pp. 209-211, op. cit.
“Innocent III,” Christian History: Rulers. (Accessed 10/13/08)
6. Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, 1995), p. 215.  Russell Chamberlin, The Bad Popes (Phoenix Mill, England: Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2003), pp. 87-93.  J.N.D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, p. 209, op. cit.  Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, p. 435, op. cit.
7. Russell Chamberlin, The Bad Popes, pp. 93-123, op. cit.  Claudio Rendina, The Popes: Histories and Secrets, pp. 357-364, op. cit.  J.N.D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, pp. 208-210, op. cit.  Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, pp. 229-232, op. cit.
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, November 18, 1302. The quotation is near the end. (Accessed 10/13/08)
8. Claudio Rendina, The Popes: Histories and Secrets, pp. 420-423, op. cit.  Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, pp. 263-264, op. cit.
9. Herbert Norris, Church Vestments: Their Origin & Development (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 2002), pp. 108-115. This discussion of the papal tiara includes several pictures of popes wearing tiaras.
Albert Skira, Treasures of the Vatican (Created by Albert Skira for Horizon Magazine, 1962), p. 86. This shows a portrait of Pope Alexander VI kneeling, with his tiara on the ground in front of him.
Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, op. cit. Following page 392, there is a series of numbered pictures. Pictures 2, 3, 9 and 13 show popes wearing the papal crown (tiara).
You can see pictures of the papal tiara online. Google has a search engine just for pictures (images). Go to Google’s home page (www.Google.com). You will see some words that are underlined. Click on “Images.” Then type in what you are looking for and hit the “Image Search” key. For example, you can search for “tiara” or for “pope + tiara” or for “papal tiara .”
10. Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, op. cit. Following page 392, there is a series of 40 pictures that have numbers. Pictures 13, 19, 20, 23, and 27 show popes seated on thrones.
National Geographic, Inside the Vatican (Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1991), pp. 92-93. This photograph shows a life-sized statue of Saint Peter sitting on a papal throne inside Saint Peter’s Basilica. Pages 48-49 show the Pope being carried on a portable throne (the sedia gestatoria).
Six pictures of popes with the papal crown (tiara). Two of these pictures show Popes Pius XII and John XXIII seated on an ornate papal throne. (Accessed 10/13/08)
11. Eric Convey and Tom Mashberg, “Law Grilled in Deposition” The Boston Herald, May 8, 2002. The third and fourth paragraphs discuss Cardinal Law’s dual citizenship.
12. Herbert Norris, Church Vestments: Their Origin & Development, pp. 8, 183-185, op. cit.  National Geographic, Inside the Vatican, p. 58, op. cit. This shows a ring of Pope Pius IX. It has so many diamonds on it that you can barely see the gold.
“Rings,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, 1912. (Accessed 10/13/08)
“Pectorale,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XI, 1911. This is the pectoral cross which is worn by popes, cardinals, bishops, and abbots. It is made of precious metal (gold, silver, and/or platinum) and ornamented with jewels (diamonds, pearls, etc.). It contains a relic of a saint. (Accessed 10/13/08)
13. Herbert Norris, Church Vestments: Their Origin & Development, op. cit. The entire book describes vestments that, for high-ranking churchmen, are often decorated with gold and jewels. Even their gloves have gold on them, and sometimes jewels as well. This was especially true during the Middle Ages, but it is also true today.
National Geographic, Inside the Vatican, pp. 59, 71, 83, 202, 209, op. cit. Page 59 shows a chalice of Pope Pius X that is solid gold and set with numerous diamonds. (When you look at it, you see more diamonds than gold.) Page 71 shows Pope John Paul II wearing a gold miter and vestments decorated with gold. Page 83 shows Pope John Paul II wearing gold vestments. (They are made of gold cloth, as opposed to just being decorated with gold.) Page 202 shows gloves and shoes of Pope Pius XII. They are decorated with gold. One pair of shoes has jewels on them. (They appear to be rubies and emeralds.) Page 209 shows a miter that was worn by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I. It is decorated with gold and set with many jewels.
In the Vatican, there is a portrait of Pope Alexander VI wearing gold vestments that are covered with jewels. There is a large, full-color picture in Albert Skira, Treasures of the Vatican, p. 86. There is a smaller full-color picture in the National Geographic book, Inside the Vatican, p. 49. (Although it is smaller, you can still see the gold and jewels.) There is also a small black-and-white picture in Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes. (Following page 392 there is a series of numbered pictures. The portrait of Alexander VI is Picture 10.)
14. Albert Skira, Treasures of the Vatican, p. 31, op. cit. This shows a picture of the statue of Saint Peter wearing vestments of gold and scarlet, with a gold crown that is studded with jewels.
National Geographic, Inside the Vatican, pp. 92-93, op. cit. This shows a nun kissing the foot of the statue of Saint Peter. It also shows a close-up of the foot that has been worn smooth from being kissed so much.
15. Herbert Norris, Church Vestments: their Origin & Development, pp. 114, 179, op. cit. Page 114 shows Pope Sixtus IV wearing a tiara and mozetta. Page 179 discusses the mozetta.
“Mozzetta,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. X, 1911. This is a special red cape worn by the Pope. In the six winter months, he wears a mozzetta trimmed with white ermine. In the six summer months he wears a lighter mozzetta without ermine. (Accessed 10/13/08)
16. National Geographic, Inside the Vatican, pp. 48-49, op. cit. This shows the Pope being carried on the sedia gestatoria (the portable papal throne).  Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, has pictures of the Pope being carried on the sedia gestatoria on the front cover of the book and on page 11.
“Sedia Gestatoria,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, 1912. This is the portable papal throne. (Accessed 10/13/08)
“Pontifical Mass,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XII, 1911. This describes the use of the sedia gestatoria (portable papal throne) for the solemn procession that occures during a Pontifical Mass. (Accessed 10/13/08)
You can see pictures of the sedia gestatoria online. Google has a search engine just for pictures (images). Go to Google’s home page (www.Google.com). You will see some words that are underlined. Click on “Images.” Then type in “sedia” and hit the “Image Search” key.
17. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 503, op. cit.
18. Capella Sistina (Sistine Chapel), Christus Rex. This web page has 27 categories listed. If you click on one of them, you will get a web page with small pictures on it. If you click on the small pictures, you will get larger ones.(Accessed 10/13/08)
Citta del Vaticano (Vatican City), Christus Rex. This web page has 14 categories, showing Saint Peter’s Basilica, the pontifical palaces, and the vatican gardens. Click on a category and you will see small pictures. Click on a small picture and you will see a larger one. (Accessed 10/13/08)
Musei Vaticani (Vatican museum), Christus Rex. this web page has 22 categories. Click on a category, then click on small pictures to see larger ones. (Accessed 10/13/08)
You can also find good pictures by doing a Google search for “images .” Go to Google’s home page (www.Google.com). You will see some words that are underlined. Click on “Images.” Then type what you are looking for in the bar and click on the “Search Images” button. You can search for “Sistine Chapel” or “Vatican museums” etc.