Friday, December 15, 2006
Maxwell's Silver Hammer?
Nope... Leo's Golden Hammer. I mentioned last week that there's an interesting exhibtion on at the Lateran Palace at the moment called Habemus Papam dealing with the 'election' of Popes from St Peter to Benedict XVI. Well, I was there this afternoon and can't recommend it highly enough. It has some absolutely astonishing artefacts, including the above - the golden hammer used by the Camerlengo to verify that Pope Leo XIII was dead. (The custom is that the Camerlengo taps the forehead of the deceased Pope and calls him by his baptismal name 3 times before verifiying his death.)
In addition to dealing with conclaves, the exhibition also deals with the development of the Petrine ministry during the ages, and the aboriginal Papal Election when Christ gave Peter the keys. There's a fascinating selection of pieces of art which protray Christ and St Peter, including the above late 4th Century relief.
And for Papal history buffs, this is incredibly cool - this is the letter sent by the Cardinal electors of the 1292-1294 Perugia conclave to the pious hermit Pietro di Murrone asking him to become Pope. He accepted, and as Pope St Celestine V has the distinction of being the only Pope to resign his office; ostensibly for the good of his soul, though there is some evidence that great pressure was placed on him by some unscrupulous Cardinals who found it difficult to cope with a saint in the Chair of Peter.