Benedict XVI's clothing may show more than his fashion sense





[A]s important as Benedict's words will be in introducing the pope to an American audience that knows little about him, it may be just as important to check out what he's wearing. The pope's choice of liturgical vestments and other papal accouterments speak volumes not only about his personal tastes but also about his vision of the church's future, and its past.

With increasing regularity, Benedict has been reintroducing elaborate lace garments and monarchical regalia that have not been seen around Rome in decades, even centuries. He has celebrated Mass using the wide cope (a cape so ample it is held up by two attendants) and high miter of Pius IX, a 19th-century pope known for his dim views of the modern world, and on Ash Wednesday he wore a chasuble modeled on one worn by Paul V, a Borghese pope of the 17th century remembered for censuring Galileo.

On Good Friday he donned a "fiddleback" vestment dating to the Counter-Reformation era of the 16th century, and he has used a tall gilded papal throne not seen in years. And that's not to mention the ermine-trimmed red velvet mozzetta, a shoulder cape, or the matching camauro, a Santa Claus-like cap that art students will recognize from Renaissance portraiture.


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