7 thoughts on “Happy New Year!

  1. Ken

    Heraldic Hats–The heraldic hat looks like the saturno to me. My question for the New Year is whether the saturno can still be worn adorned with the appropriate number of tassels. I have never seen any modern photograph of an ecclesiastic wearing the saturno with tassels. I know the red cardinal’s galero was abolished (except for heraldic use) in 1969, but that was just the red cardinal’s hat, right? If the tassels are still allowed today, would a cardinal wear a black hat with red tassles, or a black hat with black tassels? I know that a number of cardinal-archbishops have had traditional galeros made post-1969 for use as galero parasols to be hung in their cathedral churches after their deaths. (In recent years, Raymond Cardinal Burke was famously photographed wearing a traditional galero–which caused the National Catholic Reporter to question whether he was disobeying the pope) The legend was that a cardinal-archbishop would go to heaven when his suspended galero parasol finally crumbled into dust. I have seen older depictions of cardinals with the tassels depending (1) on the back and (2) on the chest–I wonder which style was correct. Perhaps it was left to individual discretion. The tassels always make me think (perhaps irreverently) of Jerome (Curly) Howard, one of whose short subjects depicted him going wild in the presence of tassels. He probably wouldn’t have done well at an older consistory if still afflicted with his peculiar ailment. But he was Jewish, so he probably wouldn’t have been there anyway. P.S. I love your beautifully illustrated blog. I’d like to see more on the arms of various Catholic organizations, lay and clerical.

    1. guyselvester Post author

      The galero as depicted in heraldry may often seem to resemble a saturno but it is not. The artist is at his own discretion to depict the galero as he chooses and is not bound to draw it exactly as it appears in real life.

      As for the wearing of the saturno, yes, the tassels may still be worn on them. They are readily available in the nicer clerical tailor shops in Rome. The tassels are small and attached to a cord. The cord is worn around the crown of the hat similar to a hat band. The tassels rest on and slightly fall off the brim of the staurno either on one side or to the rear of the hat. If you look at the scene in the film “The Shoes of the Fisherman” when Abp. lakota arrives in Rome, the Cardinal who meets him is wearing his hat correctly in this fashion.

      suspending the tassels arranged in a pyramid and falling on the shoulders or chest is an invention and a pretension that mimics the appearance of the tassels in heraldry. It is not to be done.

      For cardinals the cord and tassels are red, for archbishops and bishops they are green, for others they are black (although purple is also tolerated for those who are lesser prelates). All of these colored cords and tassels are worn on a BLACK saturno.

      1. Ken

        Dear Father Selvester,

        Thank you for your thorough reply to my comment & for the examples of arms of pontifical colleges & universities.

        The Wikipedia article on “galero” has a photograph of Archbishop Giovanni Colombo wearing his galero with the tassels dependent upon his chest. I am not saying that he was following the correct custom. I have seen an old print depicting Roman cardinals riding on horseback and wearing galeros. The cardinals were depicted with the tassels of their galeros dependent upon their backs. Again, I do not maintain that the print correctly depicted the custom at the time.

        One thing which strikes me is that the galero and its tassels may at one time have had a practical purpose. The colors of the galero and its cords and the number of its tassels could help sort out clerics by rank at a gathering. One could determine proper form of address and precedential questions just by looking at an individual’s headware. If I were a lay servant at such a function, I might be very glad to have the hats and the tassels to help to sort things out. The distinctive headgear could also help to identify a cleric on the public streets. I am just trying to say that the galero may have had practical purposes in addition to shielding its wearer from sun and rain–which is to say, pomp and ceremony were probably not the sole reasons for its existence.

        One rarely sees the saturno worn in the United States; I think it is in more common use in Europe. Many Americans have seen the saturno as worn by “Father Brown” in the PBS series depicting the adventures of G. K. Chesterton’s fictional priest-detective.

        One thing that I think deserves emphasis is that neither the galero nor the saturno is a liturgical vestment (as distinguished from the miter, the biretta and even the skullcap, which can be worn during various parts of mass) . Saturnos (and formerly galeros) are simply head coverings, i.e., hats, for clerics. I don’t think they are ever seen at mass–certainly not worn by the celebrant or any of his assistants. Males attending mass ordinarily remove their head coverings upon entering church; some older churches even have clips to hold male hats on the backs of the pews. I don’t know whether this custom of removing hats in church would also apply to a cleric attending mass.

        I think that Cardinal Burke has been unfairly criticized for allowing himself to be photographed wearing a galero on a private occasion. I think he had probably been presented with the galero by the sponsors of a conference which he was attending, and allowed himself to be photographed wearing the gift as a courtesy to the donors. Perhaps if he had been able to look into the furture, he would have declined the photograph despite the generosity of the donors. (I’ve been told that galeros can cost $1,000 or more at Roman clerical tailor shops.) If the mere wearing of a galero, even on a private occasion, constitutes disobedience to the Pope, as Tom Fox of the National Catholic Reporter has asserted, then Cardinal Bernardin was similarly guilty–he was presented with a galero intended to be hung from the ceiling of his cathedral church after his death by a group of clerical friends and modeled it for them on a private occasion. To the best of my knowledge, no photograph of Cardinal Bernardin modeling his galero exists, but here is a definitive press report which cites the occasion:


      2. guyselvester Post author

        The use of the galero originated with cardinals. Later it was used by other prelates of the Roman Curia (i.e. PAs) and only later spread to use by bishops. No one has ever thought of the galero as a liturgical piece of headgear. But, you also must remember that it was only worn on solemn occasions and on horseback (primarily) as well as in some other processions. It was NEVER for everyday wear or regular street wear. It was only EVER used with choir dress and, in the case of cardinals, cappa magna.

        In addition, originally the galero of cardinals was decorated with tassels. However, the number of tassels used on the heraldic depiction of a cardinal’s galero was set at 30 only in 1832. It is a rather recent invention. The galeri actually worn at one time did not have 30 tassels suspended from them. In addition, the present system of varying colors, cords and tassels was only determined by St. Pius X in 1905. So, telling the rank of a cleric by what kind of galero he was actually wearing would have been impossible because the elaborate system of various hats indicating various ranks is a recent innovation and came about at a time when everyone else except cardinals had ceased actually to wear the galero. It was a system devised mainly for heraldic depictions.

  2. Ken

    Dear Father Selvester,
    Thanks for setting me straight on the history of the galero. So much for my theory that it had a practical as well as a ceremonial and heraldic use.
    In the much-disputed photograph of Cardinal Burke (some even claimed that it was “photo-shopped”) at least he appears to be wearing the galero in the formerly approved manner. I assume that he is holding in his arms part of his cape (cappa magna):

    I found a beautiful photograph of Cardinal Stritch in choir dress wearing a black saturno. Apart from the red shoes with gold buckles, he might be in proper form today:

    I’m no enemy of the simplification of clerical address. The cappa magna probably originated when most heads of state were still monarchs and princes who walked in procession with a long train. The cappa magna was probably originated by church authorities who wished to show that bishops were spiritual princes. It would be no tragedy to see it pass from use. But I hope traditions regarding the depiction of clerical headware will be preserved in heraldry.
    Enough of me! I do not wish to interject controversy into a wonderful blog devoted to ecclesiastical heraldry.

    1. guyselvester Post author

      Again, it was the bygone cavalcade that influenced the development of the Cappa magna more than anything. The train was long to cover the back of the horse!
      The photo of Cardinal Stritch is indeed nice except that the red shoes and gold buckles aren’t the only thing out of date. The red tabarro trimmed in gold (the cape he’s wearing) has also been discontinued. One occasionally still sees it but it was, in fact, done away with by Bl. Paul VI.

  3. Ken

    So the train had a practical use both for worldly and for spiritual princes! Imagine–all that pomp and ceremony had as its beginning to need to cover a horse as well as its rider! Thanks for the education. P.S. I’d hate to have to cover the dry cleaning bill for a cappa magna. If a galero needed cleaning, the proud owner would have been wise to avoid the infamous Pip Boys’ Tailor Shop, what with Curly Howard’s well-known aversion to tassels! He might have damaged the goods in his frenzy, and cardinal’s galeros with fifteen tassels on each side would probably have driven him wild. The Stooges could probably have done a very funny comedy as inept members of the Swiss Guard, but cultural sensitivities at the time would have prohibited any such plot development. Hat blockers and cleaners were usually separate businesses from the general run of tailors and cleaners in decades past. In Rome, there were probably specialty firms to attend to such duties, unless the cleaning work was done by religious brothers or sisters or by employees of the Holy See.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s