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PALLIUM or Pall (derived, so far as the name is concerned, from the Roman pallium or palla, a woollen cloak), an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the pope, but for many centuries past bestowed by him on all metropolitan, primates and archbishops as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. The pallium, in its present form, is a narrow band, “three fingers broad,” woven of white lamb's wool, with a loop in the centre resting on the shoulders over the chasuble, and two dependent lappets, before and behind; so that when seen from front or back the ornament resembles the letter Y. It is decorated with six purple crosses, one on each tail and four on the loop, is doubled on the left shoulder, and is garnished, back and front, with three jewelled gold pins. The two latter characteristics seem to be survivals of the time when the Roman pallium, like the Greek ὠμοφόριον was a simple scarf doubled and pinned on the left shoulder.

The origin of the pallium as an ecclesiastical vestment is lost in antiquity. The theory that explains it in connexion with the figure of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb on his shoulders, so common in early Christian art, is obviously an explanation a posteriori. The ceremonial connected with the preparation of the pallium and its bestowal upon the pope at his coronation, however, suggests some such symbolism. The lambs whose wool is destined for the making of the pallia are solemnly presented at the altar by the nuns of the convent of St Agnes as

Drawn by Father J. Braun, and reproduced from his Die lilurgische Gewanduns by permission of E. Herder. Illustration of the Development of the Pallium.

Rome at mass on St Agnes' day, during the singing of the Agnus Dei. They are received by the canons of the Lateran church and handed over by them to the apostolic sub deacons, by whom they are put out to pasture till the time of shearing. The pallia fashioned of their wool by the nuns are carried by the sub deacons to St Peter's, where they are placed by the canons on the bodies of St Peter and St Paul, under the high altar, for a night, then committed to the sub deacons for safe custody. A pallium thus consecrated is placed by the archdeacon over the shoulders of the pope at his coronation, with the words "Receive the pallium," i.e. the plenitude of the pontifical office, "to the glory of God, and of the most glorious Virgin His Mother, and of the blessed apostles St Peter and St Paul, and of the Holy Roman Church." The elaborate ceremonial might suggest an effort to symbolize the command " Feed My lambs!" given to St Peter, and its transference to Peter's successors. Some such idea underlies the developed ceremonial; but the pallium itself was in its origin no more than an ensign of the episcopal dignity, as it remains in the East, where — under the name of ὠμοφόριον (ώμος, shoulder, φἐρειν, to carry) — it is worn by all bishops. Moreover, whatever symbolism may be evolved from the lambs' wool is vitiated, so far as origins are concerned, by the fact that the papal pallia were at one time made of white linen (see Johannes Diaconus, Vita S. Gregorii M. lib. IV. cap. 8, pallium ejus bysso candente contextum).[1]

The right to wear the pallium seems, in the first instance, to have been conceded by the popes merely as a mark of honour. The first recorded example of the bestowal of the pallium by the popes is the grant of Pope Symmachus in 513 to Cacsarius of Aries, as papal vicar. By the time of Gregory I. it was given not only to vicars but as a mark of honour to distinguish bishops, and it is still conferred on the bishops of Autun, Bamberg, Dol, Lucca, Ostia, Pavia and Verona. St Boniface caused a reforming synod, between 840 and 850, to decree that in future all metropolitan must seek their pallium at Rome (see Boniface's letter to Cuthbert, 78, Monumenta Germaniae, epistolae, III.); and though this rule was not universally followed even until the 13th century, it is now uncanonical for an archbishop to exercise the functions proper to his office until the pallium has been received. Every archbishop must apply for it, personally or by deputy, within three months after his consecration, and it is buried with him at his death (see Archbishop). The pallium is never granted until after payment of considerable dues. This payment, originally supposed to be voluntary, became one of the great abuses of the papacy, especially during the period of the Renaissance, and it was the large amount (raised largely by indulgences) which was paid by Albert, archbishop of Mainz, to the papacy that roused Luther to protest. Though the pallium is thus a vestment distinctive of bishops having metropolitan jurisdiction, it may only be worn by them within their jurisdiction, and then only on certain solemn occasions. The pope alone has the right to wear everywhere and at all times a vestment which is held to symbolize the plenitude of ecclesiastical power.

See P. Hinschius, Kirchenrecht, II. 23 sqq.; Gresar, “Das römische Pallium und die ältesten liturgischen Schärpen” (in Festschrift zum elfhundertjährigen Jubiläum des campo santo in Rom, Freiburg, 1897); Du Cange, Glossarium s.v. “Pallium”; Joseph Braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient (Freiburg-i-B., 1907).


  1. Father Joseph Braun, S.J., holds that the pallium, unlike other vestments, had a liturgical origin, and that it was akin to the scarves of office worn by priests and priestesses in pagan rites. See Die pontificalen Gcwänder des Ahendlandes, p. 174 (Freiburg-i-B. 1898).