|The pallium is a circular piece of vestment embracing the chest, neck and shoulders. Strips of 30 cm is dangling down the front and back. Approx. 6 cm wide, the circle and strips are woven from white lamb’s wool.
Its sides are embroidered with 4 black or red crosses. Both strips are decorated with one cross each. They are weighed down by metal pads covered in black or red silk. The outline of these pads is approx. 13×6 cm.
At each cross (at the front down from the neck, left and right shoulder), there is a little noose which is pinned with precious needles (spilloni dal pallio (ital.); aciculae (lat.)). They are reminiscent of the three nails on the cross.
Decorated with jewels, the pin head is supposed to point always to the right (from the spectator’s point of view).
The wool is gained from white lambs. On St Agnes’s Day (Jan 21st) the Pope – or a cardinal who acts on his behalf; on 21 Jan 2007, he was substitued by Cardinal Ruini – consecrates two lambs in the church Sant’ Agnese fuori la Mura. The lambs are left in the nuns’ care wo will also do the shearing during Holy Week. However, the wool of the two lambs is hardly sufficient to weave all the pallia required. It is therefore mixed with the wool of other lambs.
The Lateranesian Canons Regular pay these lambs as charges to the Chapter of St John (Lateran).
The monastery responsible for the weaving of the papal pallium is in Rome. It is the enclosed order Santa Cecilia (22, piazza di Santa Cecilia, 00153 Rome, District Trastevere). Moreover, the monastery at Torre de Specchi Pallien used to be involved in the weaving, too.
The pallium is a second-class relic. On the eve of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (i.e. on June 28th), the new pallia are laid out on the casket containing the remains of Apostle Peter beneath the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, before being dished out to the new archbishops by the Pope. Thus, the power and spirit emanating from the remains of Apostle Peter may descend on to the new pallia.
Earlier in his pontificate, the Holy Father used to wear an antique pallium dangling from the left shoulder all the way down to his knee (V-shape). It was embroidered with five crosses symbolizing the cicatrices of Christ.
On 29 June 2008, he gave up on the antique pallium for reasons of convenience. Pope Benedict XVI finally returned to the classic Roman pallium (Y-shape) with 6 red crosses. With a width of 9 cm it is wider than that of the archbishops.
At the introduction to his office (25 April 2005), the pallium was laid across Pope Benedict XVI’s shoulders by the senior cardinal deacon, the cardinal proto-deacon Medina Estévez. At this occasion, the latter spoke the words:
“Praise the Lord, who chose you as herdsman of the whole church and embraces you with the white stole of your office. May you act under its briliance for many years of your earthly life and enter his celestial realm vested in the stole of immortality once He calls you.”
John Paul II used to wear a simple narrow pallium (approx. 6 cm) decorated with black crosses; Benedict’s pallium is approx. 9 cm wide and is decorated with red crosses.
Nersinger, Ulrich: Die Lämmerweihe am Fest der Heiligen Agnes, Verlag Mayer & Comp., Wien 1995,
Nersinger, Ulrich: Insignien und Gewandung des Papstes – einst und jetzt – Das Pallium. in: Pro Missa Tridentina, Rundbrief Nr. 27, Dezember 2003, ISSN 1610-4927
(12 Feb 2010) [German only]
Artikel: What is the Pallium? (233 KB) [German only]
The 3 pictures below depict a pallium woven by the Benedictine nuns living at the monastery “Monastero delle Benedettine Santa Cecilia”, Rome. These nuns manufacture the pallia worn by archbishops and metropolitan bishops at liturgical celebrations in exclusive remittance work. The 3rd picture shows the diagonal network of the pallia produced by special looms.
pallium pins (7 cm long) decorated with ornamental jewellery