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Processional Umbrellas

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The umbraculum is a medieval item of papal regalia and insignia that was previously used to provide shade for the Pope on a daily basis.

The umbraculum, also known as the pavilion, is a modern emblem of the Catholic Church and the Pope's rule over it.

Alexander VI was the first pope to employ the umbraculum as a symbol of the papacy's temporal authority; at the time, monarchs strolled outside beneath a canopy. With the umbraculum in hand, a member of the Papal Gentlemen would frequently trail a pope.

Many of these basilicas were turned into churches when Rome became Christianized around 300 AD, and the high platform inhabited by the judge became the altar. The term 'basilica' was also repurposed to refer to a specific type of Church that the Pope could only designate.

The umbrella has a long and intriguing history of symbolism and significance in religious ceremonial, much beyond simply an essential instrument that keeps us dry or protects us from the sun. Umbrellas and parasols have played a significant role in celebrations and processions throughout history, from Ancient Greece and Rome to the current day.

It may be seen in the modern Church in all basilicas across the world, conspicuously displayed to the right of the main altar. The umbraculum of a basilica is opened whenever the Pope visits there.

The umbraculum, also known as the conopaeum and translating to "great umbrella," is a traditional element of the Pope's regalia that was initially used to shelter him from the sun on a daily basis.

If you see an umbraculum in a church, you know it's a basilica: big basilicas have umbrellas made of gold and crimson velvet, whereas lesser basilicas have umbrellas made of red and yellow silk.

It also had a staff with little bells, which would ring to signal the approach of a pope arriving by horse and carriage.

Consider how significant this simple item has been and continues to be across the world and to the catholic faith the next time you open your umbrella to shield yourself from the rain.

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