Catholic History

Seamless Coat of Our Savior.

COAT, the Holy (tunica inconsutilis, derheilige Rock, la sainte Robe). This celebrated relic is in the treasury of the cathedral of Treves, and a very ancient tradition asserts it to be identical with the seamless coat which our Savior wore at the time of His Passion. The empress Helena, having come into possession of it in the Holy Land, is said to have given it to the city of Treves, where she resided for a considerable time. The earliest written testimony to this effect is found in the Gesta Trevirorum, a chronicle of the first half of the twelfth century, where Helena is said to have presented the relic to the church during the episcopate of Agritius (314334). Several other notices of the Holy Coat are found in documents mounting up to, or nearly to, the twelfth century. But the most remarkable and interesting piece of evidence in support of the authenticity of the relic, is an ancient ivory belonging to the cathedral (lost for some time, but recovered in 1844), on which the empress is figured, seated at the church door, and awaiting the arrival of a procession closed by a chariot in which are two ecclesiastics guarding a chest. Above the chariot is the face of Christ, by which some relation between our Lord and the contents of the chest seems to be indicated. This ivory was examined by the Archeological Society of Frankfort in 1846, with the result of fixing its date at the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century.

We read of the translation of the relic from the choir to the highaltar of the cathedral in 1196. After an interval of more than three hundred years, it was exposed in 1512, and on several other occasions in the sixteenth century, for the veneration of the faithful. During the wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was deposited for safety in the castle of Ehrenbreitstein, or at Augsburg. In 1810, with the permission of Napoleon, the bishop of Treves, Mgr. Mannay, brought the sacred relic back from Augsburg to his own city, and, in spite of the confusion of the times, a multitude of pilgrims, numbering over two hundred thousand, visited Treves to celebrate this joyful restoration. But the most striking and successful exposition was that of 1844, when eleven bishops and more than a million of the laity flocked to Treves from all sides during the period (from August 18 to October 6) for which the Holy Coat was exhibited. Several miraculous cures were reported, and the joy and piety of the believing throng must have been a very moving sight. Certain unstable Catholics with a secret leaning to rationalism, took offense at the proceedings and wrote against the authenticity of the Holy Coat. Among these were Czerski, an ecclesiastic from Posen, and Ronge, a suspended priest of Breslau. A long controversy arose, in the course of which these men seceded from the Church and founded a sect which they called the "German Catholic Church." The movement made a great noise, at the time, but is now seldom heard of. The wellknown Catholic writer Görres published a pamphlet on the question, entitled "The Pilgrimage of Treves," in 1845.

(This notice follows the article in Wetzer and Welte by J. Marx, the author of several works bearing on the history of the relic.)

The Pope's Tiara.

THE Tiara is a cylindrical headdress pointed at the top and surrounded with three crowns, which the Pope wears as a symbol of sovereignty. The word (tiara) occurs in the classics to denote the Persian headdress, particularly that of the "great king." In the Vulgate it is a synonym of cidaris and mitra, and is used for the turban of the high priest (Exod. xxviii. 4), or of the common priest. Till late in the middle ages tiara was a synonym of mitra, a bishop's miter, regnum being the word for crown (Ducange, sub voc.).

The whole history of the Papal tiara is uncertain. Nicolas I. (858867) is said to have been the first to unite the princely crown with the miter, though the Bollandists think this was done before his time (Bollandists, "Thesaur." vol. ii. P. 323, quoted by Hefele). The common statement that Boniface VIII. (about 1300 added the second crown, is false, for Hefele shows that Innocent III. is represented wearing the second crown in a painting older than the time of Boniface. Urban V. (136270) is supposed to have added the third crown. The tiara is placed on the Pope's head at his coronation by the second cardinal deacon in the loggia of St. Peter's with the words, "Received the tiara adorned with three crowns, and know that thou art Father of princes and kings, Ruler of the world, Vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ." At ceremonies of a purely spiritual character the Pope wears the miter, not the tiara. (Hefele, "Beiträge," vol. ii. P. 236 seg.)


Quinquagesima. Sexagesima, Septuagesima, the first, second, third Sundays before Lent. The words are ancient (Septuagesima occurs in the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries); but it is hard to divine their meaning. Alcuin proposed two solutions to Charlemagne Thomassin, "Traité des Festes," P. 308 seq.) one that there are seventy days from Septuagesima to "Pascha clausum" i.e. the Octave of Easter. This leaves the names Sexagesima and Quinquagesima unexplained. His other solution is adopted by Thomassin in ("Traité des Jeunes," P. 231). Quoting a passage from the "Regula Magistri," Thomassin says It clearly shows that the names Quinquagesima and Sexagesima are not intended to denote the numbers fifty or sixty. They have been formed on the [false] analogy of Quadragesima i.e. Lent being one and two weeks before the first Sunday in Lent. In the same rule the second week of Lent is called Tricesima, the third Vicesima." The custom of beginning the fast on Septuagesima, etc., and the reasons for it were given in the article on LENT.


ENCYCLICAL (literæ encyclicæ). A. circular letter. In the ecclesiastical sense, an encyclical is a letter addressed by the Pope to all the bishops in communion with him, in which he condemns prevalent errors, or informs them of impediments which persecution or perverse legislation or administration, opposes in particular countries to the fulfillment by the Church of her divine mission, or explains the line of conduct which Christians ought to take in reference to urgent practical questions, such as education, or the relations between Church and State, or the liberty of the Apostolic See. Encyclicals are "published for the whole Church, and addressed directly to the bishops, under circumstances which are afflicting to the entire Catholic body; while briefs and bulls are determined by circumstances more particular in their nature, and have a more special destination."

In early times the use of the term was not restricted as at present; thus, the well known letter of the Church of Smyrna, describing the martyrdom of Polycarp, is headed Epistolë egkuklikos, a circular letter; and the same designation was given by St. Cyprian to his letters on the Lapsi. (Terraris, . Epistolæ, § 15.)


It is of three kinds: that from the Christian faith; that from ecclesiastical obedience; and that from a religious profession, or from holy orders. An apostate from the faith is one who wholly abandons the faith of Christ, and joins himself to some other law, such as Judaism, Islam, Paganism, etc. It is a mistake, therefore, to brand as apostasy any kind of heresy or schism, however criminal or absurd, which still assume to itself the Christian name. While the Turks were in the heyday of their power, and had great command over the Mediterranean, the captivity of Christians among them, and apostasy resulting from such captivity, were matters of everyday occurrence; hence a great number of decisions and opinions respecting the treatment of apostates, on their wishing to return to Christianity, may be found in the writings of canonists. The second kind of apostasy, that from ecclesiastical obedience, is when a Catholic willfully and contumaciously sets at naught the authority of the Church. Such apostasy, if persisted in, becomes Schism [q. v.]. The third kind is that of those who abandon without permission the religious order in which they are professed, as when Luther abandoned his profession as an Augustinian, and married Catherine Bora. He is also an apostate who, after having received major orders, renounces his clerical profession, and returns to the dress and customs of the world, "an act which entails ecclesiastical infamy, and, if there is marriage, excommunication." (Ferraris, Apostasia; Mack's article in Wetzer and Welte.)



ONE who helps a prelate, or a priest holding a benefice, in discharging the duties of his, bishopric or benefice. Coadjutorship maybe of two kinds: one temporary and revocable, allowed on account of sickness or other incapacity, and implying no right of succession; the other perpetual and irrevocable, and carrying with it the right to succeed the person coadjuted. In this latter sense it is expressly forbidden by the Council of Trent; nevertheless the Pope, for special causes, sometimes concedes it, the plenitude of his apostolic power enabling him legally to dispense with the law. If a coadjutor is required for a parish priest, it is for the bishop of the diocese to nominate one; if for a bishop, the nomination belongs to the Pope, any usage to the contrary notwithstanding. In the case of a priest, if the incapacity is temporary or curable, he must appoint a vicar or substitute, not a coadjutor. The various infirmities which justify coadjutorship serious and incurable illness, leprosy, loss of speech, etc. are specified in the canon law. In the case of a bishop, the terms "administrator" and "suffragan" mean much the same as coadjutor, the differences being, that the administrator's function ceases when the bishop resumes charge of, the diocese or dies, and a suffragan assists the bishop in things which relate to his, ministry, but has no jurisdiction; while a coadjutor has jurisdiction, and his rights may, as we have seen, by special Papal permission, subsist after the death of the coadjuted. Various points affecting the precedence, dignity, and ceremonial attaching to a coadjutor bishop, have been settled from time to time by the Congregation of Rites. (Ferraris, Coadjutor.)

Papal Bull.

A PAPAL Bull is so named from the Bulla (or round leaden seal having on one side a representation of SS. Peter and Paul, and on the other the name of the reigning Pope), which is attached to the document (by a silken cord, if it be a "Bull of Grace," and by one of hemp if a "Bull of justice") and gives authenticity to it. Bulls are engrossed on strong rough parchment in gothic characters, and begin "[Leo] Episcopus servus servorum Dei ad perpetuam rei memoriam." A bull is dated "a die Incarnationis," and signed by the functionaries of the Papal Chancery. It is a document of more formal and weighty character than a brief, and many memorable Papal decisions and condemnations have been given in this form, such as the bull Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII., the bull Unigenitus of Clement XI., etc., etc.

Papal Brief

A PAPAL Brief is a letter issuing from the Court of Rome, written on fine parchment in modern characters, subscribed by the Pope's Secretary of Briefs, dated "a die Nativitatis," and sealed with the Pope's signetring, the seal of the Fisherman. [See BULL.]



ACOLYTE, from akoloutheö, to follow; and here, to follow as a server or ministrant; a name given to the highest of the four minor orders. It is the duty of the acolyte to supply wine and water and to carry the lights at the Mass, and the bishop ordains him for these functions by putting the cruets and a candle into his hand, accompanying the action with words indicating the nature of the office conferred. The order of Acolyte is mentioned along, with the others by Pope Cornelius in the middle of the third century. Their ordination is mentioned in an ancient collection of canons commonly, though wrongly, attributed to the Fourth Council of Carthage. The functions of acolytes are now freely performed by laymen, though the order is still always received by those who aspire to the priesthood.


THE old custom was to preach from the altar or episcopal chair. But apparently even in St. Augustine's time the ambo, originally meant for readers and singers, and large enough to hold several persons easily, was used for preaching, and so was raised and narrowed into the form of the pulpit. It should be placed on the Gospel side (S. C. R., February 20, 1862), unless that side is already occupied by the bishop's throne. The bishop, according to the "Cær. Episc.," should preach, if possible, from the throne or from a faldstool at the altar. If this is inconvenient, he should be accompanied to the pulpit by the two canons who assist at the throne. (Montault, "Traité de la Construct., etc., des Eglises.")

Benedicamus Domino.

BENEDICAMUS Domino, i.e. "Let us bless the Lord," a form used in the Breviary at the end of each hour except Matins, and at the end of Mass instead of Ite Missa est on days when the Gloria in excelsis is not said. Various reasons are given for the use of Benedicamus Domino for the usual Ite Missa est. Cardinal Bona thinks that the Ite Missa est was omitted first of all during penitential seasons, such as Advent and Lent, because then the people did not immediately leave the church, but waited for the recitation of the hours, and that gradually the Benedicamus Domino came to be used in ferial Masses generally. In Masses for the dead, Requiescant in pace took the place of the Ite Missa est, perhaps because the people often had to remain for the funeral rites. (Benedict XIV. "De Miss." II, 24).

Julian and Gregorian Calendar.

Julius Cæsar, in the year 708 of the city, caused the civil calendar, which had fallen into confusion, to be reformed by dividing the year into twelve months, each with the same number of days as at present, and providing that an additional day should be given to February in every fourth year, in order that the natural year, which was believed to be 365 days six hours in length, might keep even pace with the legal year. But as the real excess of the time taken in the solar revolution over 365 days does not amount to six hours, but only to five hours and fortynine minutes (nearly), it was an inevitable consequence of the disregard of this fact that the addition of nearly fortyfour minutes too much every leapyear should again in course of time make the natural and civil years disagree. The accumulated error caused the difference of a day in about 134 years; thus the vernal equinox, which in the year of the Council of Nicæa (325) fell, as it ought to fall, on March 21, in 1582, occurred ten days earlier. But since Easter ought to be kept on the Sunday after the first fullmoon following the vernal equinox, it is obvious that with so serious a difference between the real equinox and the equinox of the calendar, Easter might easily be kept a month too late; the Paschal fullmoon might have occurred on some day between March 11 (the date of the real equinox) and March 21, but be disregarded in favor of the next fullmoon, which fell after the equinox of the calendar. Gregory XIII., consulting with men of science, effectually remedied the evil, and provided against its recurrence. He ordered that the days between October 4 and October 15 in the current year (1582) should be suppressed, and that, beginning with 1700, three out of every four centesimal leapyears1700, 1800, 1900, but not 2000 should be omitted, so that those years should have only 365, not 366 days. This change, having originated at Rome, was long resisted in Protestant countries, and in English speaking countries not adopted until 1751, by, which time the accumulated error amounted to eleven days; these days were suppressed between September 2 and 14, 1752. In Russia the Julian Calendar is still adhered to, with the result that their computation of time is now twelve days in arrear of the rest of Europe.

What an Infidel is.

One who is not among the fideles, the faithful of Christ. Popularly the term is applied to all who reject Christianity as a divine revelation. In order to reject it, they must have heard of it; those, therefore, who have never heard of Christianity, are not in popular language called infidels, but heathens, though they are included under the theological term "infideles." Nor are heretics, even Unitarians, to be called infidels, for they do accept the religion of Christ as divinely revealed, however erroneous or fantastic their notion as to the nature of the revelation may be.

Privileged Altar.

AN altar, such as the seven privileged altars in St. Peter's, by visiting which certain indulgences may be gained.

(2) An altar at which Votive Masses may be said even on certain feasts which are doubles. There are often altars of this kind at places of pilgrimage.

(3) Altars with a plenary indulgence for one soul in purgatory attached to all Masses said at them for the dead. The privilege continues, even if a new altar be erected, provided it be in the same place and under the same title. All altars are privileged on All Souls' Day. Sometimes the privilege is personal i.e. a priest may have the privilege of gaining the plenary indulgence always or on certain occasions, when he offers Mass for the dead, without respect to the altar at which he says it. The local privilege is only granted to fixed altars, the personal may be used even at portable altars. The Mass must be a Requiem Mass, if the rubrics permit it to be said on that day. This privilege is not withdrawn in the general suspension of indulgences during a jubilee. (Probst, art. Altar, in the new edition of the "Kirchenlexikon.")

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