The pallium derived from the Roman pallium or palla, a woollen cloak is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously connected to the papacy.
Essentially the same garment is worn by all Orthodox bishops, and is called a Omophor. The pallium, in its present Western form, is a narrow band, "three fingers broad", woven of white lamb's wool from sheep raised by Trappist monks, with a loop in the centre resting on the shoulders over the chasuble and two dependent lappets, before and behind; so that when seen from front or back the ornament resembles the letter Y.
It is decorated with six black crosses, one on each tail and four on the loop, is doubled on the left shoulder and sometimes is garnished, back and front, with three jewelled gold pins. The two latter characteristics seem to be survivals of the time when the Roman pallium was a simple scarf doubled and pinned on the left shoulder.
The omophor is a wide band of cloth, much larger than the modern pallium, worn by all Eastern Orthodox bishops and Eastern Catholic bishops of the Byzantine Rite. The theory that explains its origin in connection with the figure of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb on his shoulders, so common in early Christian art, may be an explanation a posteriori.
The ceremonial connected with the preparation of the pallium and its bestowal upon the Pope at his coronation, however, suggests some such symbolism. The lambs whose wool is destined for the making of the pallia are solemnly presented at the altar by the nuns of the convent of Saint Agnes. The Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere later weave the lambs' wool into pallia.
The awarding of the pallium became controversial in the Middle Ages, because popes charged a fee from those receiving them, earning hundreds of millions of gold florins for the papacy and bringing the award of the pallium into disrepute. This process was condemned by the Council of Basel in 1432, which referred to it as "the most usurious contrivance ever invented by the papacy". The fee was later abandoned amid charges of simony. For his formal inauguration Pope Benedict XVI adopted an earlier form of the pallium, from a period when it and the omophor were virtually identical. It is wider than the modern pallium although not as wide as the modern omophor, made of wool with black silk ends, and decorated with five red crosses, three of which are pierced with pins, symbolic of Christ's five wounds and the three nails.
Only the Papal pallium was to take this distinctive form. Beginning with the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29, 2008) Benedict XVI reverted to a form similar to that worn by his recent predecessors, albeit in a larger and longer cut and with red crosses, therefore remaining distinct from pallia worn by metropolitans.
Under the 1917 Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, a metropolitan had to receive the pallium before exercising his office in his ecclesiastical province, even if he was previously metropolitan elsewhere, but these restrictions were absent in the revised 1983 Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law. No other bishops, even non-metropolitan archbishops or retired metropolitans, are allowed to wear the pallium unless they have special permission. An explicit exception is made for the rarely-realised scenario in which a person not yet a bishop is appointed Pope, in which case the bishop ordaining the new Pope wears the pallium during the ceremony. It is impossible to indicate exactly when the pallium was first introduced. According to the Liber Pontificalis, it was first used in the first half of the fourth century, although Tertullian wrote an essay no later than 220 AD titled De Pallio (On the Pallium). This book relates, in the life of Pope Marcus (†336), that he conferred the right of wearing the pallium on the Bishop of Ostia, because the consecration of the pope appertained to him. At any rate, the wearing of the pallium was usual in the fifth century; this is indicated by the above-mentioned reference contained in the life of St Marcus which dates from the beginning of the sixth century, as well as by the conferring of the pallium on St. Cæsarius of Arles by Pope Symmachus in 513. Besides, in numerous other references of the sixth century, the pallium is mentioned as a long-customary vestment. It seems that, from the beginning, the pope alone had the absolute right of wearing the pallium. Its use by others was tolerated only by virtue of the permission of the pope. We hear of the pallium being conferred on others, as a mark of distinction, as early as the sixth century. The honour was usually conferred on metropolitans, especially those nominated vicars by the pope, but it was sometimes conferred on simple bishops (e.g., on Syagrius of Autun, Donus of Messina, and John of Syracuse by Pope Gregory I).
The use of the pallium among metropolitans did not become general until the ninth century, when the obligation was laid upon all Western metropolitans of forwarding a petition for the pallium accompanied by a solemn profession of faith, all consecrations being forbidden them before the reception of the pallium. The oath of allegiance which the recipient of the pallium takes today originated, apparently, in the eleventh century. It is met with during the reign of Paschal II (1099–118), and replaced the profession of faith. It is certain that a tribute was paid for the reception of the pallium as early as the sixth century. This was abrogated by Pope Gregory I in the Roman Synod of 595, but was reintroduced later as partial maintenance of the Holy See. These pallium contributions have often been, since the Middle Ages, the subject of embittered controversies.
There are many different opinions concerning the origin of the pallium. Some trace it to an investiture by Constantine I (or one of his successors); others consider it an imitation of the Hebrew ephod, the humeral garment of the High Priest.
Others again declare that its origin is traceable to a mantle of St. Peter, which was symbolical of his office as supreme pastor.
A fourth hypothesis finds its origin in a liturgical mantle, which, it is asserted, was used by the early popes, and which in the course of time was folded into the shape of a band; a fifth says its origin dates from the custom of folding the ordinary mantle-pallium, an outer garment in use in imperial times; a sixth declares that it was introduced immediately as a papal liturgical garment, which, however, was not at first a narrow strip of cloth, but, as the name suggests, a broad, oblong, and folded cloth.
To trace it to an investiture of the emperor, to the ephod of the Jewish High Priest, or to a fabled mantle of St. Peter, is not supported. It may well be that the pallium was introduced as a liturgical badge of the pope, or that it was adopted in imitation of its counterpart, the pontifical omophor, already in vogue in the Eastern Church. Initially, it was bestowed on papal vicars (like the bishop of Arles, who represented the pope in the regions of Gaul) and other bishops with exclusive links to the Apostolic See. Also in this rank were missionaries sent with papal approval to organise the church among newly converted people. St Augustine of Canterbury in seventh-century England and St. Boniface in eighth-century Germany fell into this category.
There is a decided difference between the form of the modern pallium and that used in early Christian times, as portrayed in pictures of the Ravenna mosaics. The pallium of the sixth century was a long, moderately wide, white band of wool, ornamented at its extremity with a black or red cross, and finished off with tassels; it was draped around the neck, shoulders, and breast in such a manner that it formed a V in front, and the ends hung down from the left shoulder, one in front and one behind.
In the eighth century it became customary to let the ends fall down, one in the middle of the breast and the other in the middle of the back, and to fasten them there with pins, the pallium thus becoming Y-shaped. A further development took place during the ninth century (according to pictorial representations, at first outside of Rome where ancient traditions were not maintained so strictly): the band, which had hitherto been kept in place by the pins, was sewn Y-shaped, without, however, being cut.
The present circular form originated in the tenth or eleventh century. Two excellent early examples of this form, belonging respectively to Archbishop St. Heribert (1021) and Archbishop St. Anno (d. 1075), are preserved in Siegburg, Archdiocese of Cologne. The two vertical bands of the circular pallium were very long until the fifteenth century, but were later repeatedly shortened until they now have a length of only about twelve inches. At first the only decorations on the pallium were two crosses near the extremities. This is proved by the mosaics at Ravenna and Rome. It appears that the ornamentation of the pallium with a greater number of crosses did not become customary until the ninth century, when small crosses were sewn on the pallium, especially over the shoulders. There was, however, during the Middle Ages no definite rule regulating the number of crosses, nor was there any precept determining their colour. They were generally dark, but sometimes red. The pins, which at first served to keep the pallium in place, were retained as ornaments even after the pallium was sewn in the proper shape, although they no longer had any practical object. That the insertion of small leaden weights in the vertical ends of the pallium was usual as early as the thirteenth century is proved by the discovery in 1605 of the pallium enveloping the body of Boniface VIII, and by the fragments of the pallium found in the tomb of Clement IV.
As early as the 6th century the pallium was considered a liturgical vestment to be used only in the church, and indeed only during Mass, unless a special privilege determined otherwise. This is proved conclusively by the correspondence between Pope Gregory I and John of Ravenna concerning the use of the pallium. The rules regulating the original use of the pallium cannot be determined with certainty, but its use, even before the 6th century, seems to have had a definite liturgical character. From early times more or less extensive restrictions limited the use of the pallium to certain days. Its indiscriminate use, permitted to Hincmar of Reims by Leo IV (851) and to Bruno of Cologne by Agapetus II (954) was contrary to the general custom. In the 10th and 11th centuries, just as today, the general rule was to limit the use of the pallium to a few festivals and some other extraordinary occasions. The symbolic character now attached to the pallium dates back to the 9th century, when it was made an obligation for all metropolitans to petition the Holy See for permission to use it. The evolution of this character was complete about the end of the eleventh century; thenceforth the pallium is always designated in the papal bulls as the symbol of plenitudo pontificalis officii. In the sixth century the pallium was the symbol of the papal office and the papal power, and for this reason Pope Felix transmitted his pallium to his archdeacon, when, contrary to custom, he nominated him his successor. On the other hand, when used by metropolitans, the pallium originally signified simply union with the Apostolic See, and was an ornament symbolizing the virtue and rank of its wearer.
In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic liturgical tradition, the omophor is the distinguishing vestment of a bishop and the symbol of his spiritual and ecclesiastical authority. Originally of wool, it is a band of brocade decorated with four crosses and an eight-pointed star and is worn about the neck and shoulders. By symbolizing the lost sheep that is found and carried on the Good Shepherd's shoulders, it signifies the bishop's pastoral role as the icon of Christ.
Clergy and ecclesiastical institutions subject to a bishop's authority are often said to be "under his omophor". The equivalent vestment in Western Christian usage is the archiepiscopal pallium, the use of which is subject to different rubrics and restrictions, while all Orthodox bishops wear the omophor. The omophor has two forms: the ancient great omophor, which passes around the neck, is folded in the front, and hangs down past the knees in both the front and the back, like a loosely-worn long scarf; and the small omophor which is much simpler, passing around the neck and hanging down in the front similar to an epitrachil (stole), only wider and shorter, coming down only a little past the waist. Because of the complexity of the great omophor, and because of the dignity of the episcopal office, whenever the bishop puts on the omophor or takes it off, he is assisted by two subdeacons. Whenever he presides at any divine service, the bishop will be vested in the omophor. If he is serving the Divine Liturgy he will wear both the great and the small omophor at different times over his liturgical vestments. At any service other than the Divine Liturgy he will usually wear the small omophor. At the Divine Liturgy, the rubrics call for the bishop to put on and take off the omophor numerous times. When he is first vested, the subdeacons place the great omophor on him, but afterwards, when the rubric calls for him to wear the omophor, it is replaced, for the sake of convenience, with the small omophor.
Whenever he presides at any divine service, the bishop will be vested in the omophor. If he is serving the Divine Liturgy he will wear both the great and the small omophor at different times over his liturgical vestments. At any service other than the Divine Liturgy he will usually wear the small omophor. At the Divine Liturgy, the rubrics call for the bishop to put on and take off the omophor numerous times. When he is first vested, the subdeacons place the great omophor on him, but afterwards, when the rubric calls for him to wear the omophor, it is replaced, for the sake of convenience, with the small omophor.
In some places, when several bishops concelebrate, it is now the custom for the chief celebrant to use the great omophor when called for, and the other bishops to wear the small omophor throughout. In the Ruthenian Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, often only the great omophor is used. In this simplified usage, the great omophor is not replaced by the small omophor, and is worn by the bishop throughout the entire liturgy. In such cases, the omophor is often sewn into shape and can be simple draped onto the shoulders rather than wrapped on by assistants. Some Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops, however, will insist on the full ceremonial. In the early church, the omophor was a broad band of white wool ornamented with crosses and draped loosely over the neck, shoulders, and breast. The modern Roman pallium developed from this early omophor; however, in the West it has changed over the centuries into a circular, thin woolen garment for the shoulders, with short, weighted pendants before and behind. The papal pallium adopted by Pope Benedict XVI is closer to the original omophor.