Pauline Papal Portrait

In the Basilica of St. Paul’s-outside-the-Walls, there are portraits of all the popes going around the frieze. Some people speculate about the number of available spots remaining and how this might be an indication of how many popes there will be until the end of the world. Some people have very active imaginations.

Today they installed the mosaic portrait of Pope Francis, made – like all the others – by the Vatican’s own mosaic workshop. It has a very photo-realistic quality to it.

Photo from someone’s Twitter feed.

Normally a light shines on the portrait of the reigning pope. Some of us were joking this morning that, since Pope Emeritus Benedict is still alive, maybe they’ll shine a brighter light on Pope Francis and a dimmer light on Benedict. Priest humor.

Incidentally, the portrait of Benedict that is there now is not the original. Here’s a photo I took in the first half of 2006:

They never have the churches illuminated to optimal conditions for my photography skills, or lack thereof.

As you can see, the white band around his neck – called the pallium – is different. This is because, when he was elected, the then-papal MC, Archbishop Piero Marini, had a new form of the papal pallium made and inaugurated its use with Pope Benedict, who graciously agreed to go along with it for a while. Eventually he switched to a different, less-cumbersome form, which is what you see in the first photo above and what Pope Francis has continued to use. They didn’t make a new mosaic for Benedict, but edited the existing one.

Anyway, all of the popes before Benedict are shown wearing a stole (what is called “choir dress”), so depicting him and now Pope Francis with the pallium over a chasuble is a novelty.

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