Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Cardinal’s Galero

Galero made by Fr Bede Rowe

Moving things is a dangerous business. It is very easy to damage things, perhaps by putting hot cups of tea on them, or dropping them down a flight of stairs - for example. So I have decided to record my Cardinal’s Galero, just in case such a terrible end comes to it.

Galero showing the Cardinal's full tassels


A little history about the Galero. This hat has a wonderful history, and is quite an extraordinary thing. It started life as a practical hat, rather like the Saturno, or soup plate (or the ‘usual’ hat, a title I much prefer), but gradually became a sign of office. It is very large and broad brimmed, presumably to keep the sun off the head. The central tassel is there to keep it on the head, and is to be tied under the chin, and the tassels on either side are there as a ‘counter balance’, they are fed though the top of the hat and are in essence weights to keep the central  tassel under the chin.

Underside of the Galero


The first red Galero was bestowed on the office of Cardinal in the thirteenth century. Pope Innocent IV in 1245 in Lyon. It is red of course as it mirrors the colour of cardinals, who are to give their lives, shed their blood, in defence of the Holy Father.

With great sadness, the Galero was ditched in 1969 “Instruction on the Dress, Titles, Coat-of-Arms of Cardinals, Bishops and Lesser Prelates” - don’t read it, it’s depressing. It is in the stream of a whole series of documents from 1967 onwards which dumbed down and dimmed the Church. I can’t think about that any more. It is just too ghastly.
Suspended Galero over a Cardinal's tomb

Getting back to the Galero. By tradition when a Cardinal died it was suspended over his tomb, and as it corroded, those who passed by thought of the passing nature of this world ‘sic transit Gloria mundi’.

So this hat is given by the Holy Father, presented to the Cardinals, and was side-lined in 1969. A few years ago I was approached to see if I could make a Galero for the occasion of a Requiem Mass for  Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York, in the Conventual Church of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, in the Hospital of Ss John and Elizabeth. He was allowed his earthly honours on his catafalque.

Requiem Mass of Henry Benedict Stuart Cardinal Duke of York, note the Mitre and Galero and ermine on his catafalque. 

Chapel of Ss John and Elizabeth


So that is how the Cardinal’s Galero came to be made. My hat making secrets must go with me to the grave, but it really is a fantastic thing.

Dieter Philippi has one of the most wonderful blogs about hats, link here.

Cardinal Burke


The Galero has started to make new appearances. And I for one, and immensely happy about it. 
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