Pectoral crosses and rings
Pectoral crosses are divided into two types – an ordinary and a pontifical one. The first one, simple and without gems, could contain only the relics of saints, and was worn on a golden chain. All bishops, abbots and cardinals were entitled to it, also those without the consecration. The only exception from wearing it always on the top was the cappa magna, but, as we have seen many a time, a common practice was putting it on the cappa’s cape. We wouldn’t cavil at that :) Such a pectoral cross had the form of the Latin cross, but two archbishops had the privilege of wearing a pectoral cross with a double horizontal beam: the Primate of All Ireland and the Patriarch of Lisbon.
To the second type of the pectoral cross were entitled all, having the privilege of pontificating. It was made of gold and should contain the relics of saints. Such a cross was adorned with precious stones: especially richly adorned with diamonds and other gems were the pectoral crosses of Popes, cardinals, bishops and the prelates nullius. The pectoral crosses of abbots and the protonotaries of the first class could contain only one gem. Such a cross was hung on a rope whose colour changed depending on the rank of the bearer:
– a golden for the Pope, cardinals and patriarchs
– of green silk interwoven with gold for archbishops, bishops, abbots general, and the prelates nullius
– of red silk interwoven with gold for the protonotaries de numero
– of red silk for the protonotaries supranumerarii
– of purple silk for the protonotaries ad instar
Others, having the privilege of using the pectoral cross, had the rope in the colour depending on proper regulations (in the case of canons it was usually golden-black; in the case of abbots in the traditional colour of the given order). This cross was put on the alb, before the stole: it was not crossed, then. When a prelate, for some reason, did not don the pectoral cross, he crossed the stole as an ordinary priest (how logical it is!).
The rings used by the clergy were divided into three categories:
– pontifical: used during solemn Masses (it could be a few of them) and decorated with a single gem
– ordinary: worn on a daily basis, with a single stone or combined with diamonds
– simple: golden, without a gem, but e.g. with the coat of arms engraved.
The Pope had the privilege of wearing an everyday ring decorated with a cameo. The most well-known papal ring, however, is Annulus Piscatoris with an image of Saint Peter fishing, used for sealing the correspondence. There was a name of the Pope with the title PONT.MAX. (Pontifex Maximus) on it. This ring was put on the Pope’s hand immediately after he accepted the election, although he gave it to the master of the ceremony straightaway in order to have the chosen name engraved on it. This ring was kept by the Master of the Papal Chamber and its duplicate was kept in the Secretariat of State. The Ring of the Fisherman was solemnly broken after the death of the Pope.
During the consistory, cardinals were given a ring with a sapphire, on the interior side of which the coat of arms of the Pope was engraved. Bishops could decorate the ordinary ring with any gem, with the exception of the sapphire, which was additionally surrounded by diamonds. The lack of diamonds was characteristic of everyday rings of abbots and the protonotaries de numero. The two subsequent classes of protonotaries used only the pontifical ring. The rings could be worn also by the clergymen with the doctoral degree. These were not, however, described by the regulations: their usage was limited only to non-ecclesiastical activities.
When kissing a ring one kneels on one kneel, if a prelate is in the area of his jurisdiction: in other cases, one only bows his head while kissing it. One kneels before the Pope and a cardinal in the entire world, before an abbot in his monastery and before an Apostolic Delegate on the territory of his delegation. According to the decision of Pope Pius X, kissing the ring of a cardinal or a bishop can grant an indulgence of 50 days for the souls suffering in the Purgatory. In the following years, the Holy See extended the indulgence – for kissing of the papal ring there was 300 days of indulgence and for osculation of a cardinal’s ring 100 days. The indulgence for kissing a bishop’s ring remained unchanged. Thus, if a bishop does not want his ring to be kissed and fights so-called “holy battle” one should say that he collects indulgences :)
[English translation by Marek]