The Shoes of the Shepherd

by D. Darmanin

“The ecclesiastical shoe is well known, for it has preserved the general appearance of the footwear in vogue at the beginning of the Nineteenth century and still used as part of the court dress a low patent leather shoe, or “pump” with a large buckle in front. Of course, this style of shoes cannot be worn with our modern American civilian dress, but it is quite proper to wear them on occasions when a Prelate or other clergyman appears in full ecclesiastical dress.” There are three distinct shoes:

Papal Slippers
The Papal slippers are not fuzzy shoes for which the pope wears to bed at night. On the other hand, they are a form of the pontifical sandals. Unlike these sandals, the Papal slippers are always red. The pope wears these slippers inside the papal residence while wearing the papal shoes outdoors.

They are elaborately embroidered and made by hand with red satin, red silk and gold thread, and the soles are made of leather. The papal slippers feature a sewn cross of red rubies. Until the first half of the 20th century, it was customary for pilgrims having an audience with the pope to kiss this cross on the shoe after having made three genuflections. Pope Paul VI completely discontinued the custom of kissing the papal foot.

 (Papal Slippers of Pope John XXIII)

Pontifical Sandals
Pontifical sandals are footwear used at Pontifical Mass by Bishops and all who have, by law or special concession, the privilege of using the pontificals. The shape of these sandals is that of low shoes, with a thin sole and a flat heel.

They would be even more correct, and more in conformity with etiquette and tradition, if they had no heel at all. They are fastened with silk ribbons or strings, to the end of which are attached small gold tassels if the Prelate is a Cardinal, a Bishop, or a Protonotary Apostolic di numero or supernumerary; tufts or tassels of silk, if he is of a lower rank.

The Rubric prescribes that the color of the sandals should match that of the vestments, that is the color required by the office of the day; but at Requiem Masses the officiating Prelate does not wear the sandals. These sandals should be made of silk; no Prelate is allowed sandals of velvet or of gold cloth, and the Pope and Cardinals alone have a right to wear sandals embroidered with gold or silver.

Papal Shoes
The Papal shoes are red leather outdoor shoes worn by the pope. The shoes once had a gold embroidered cross along the vamp. However, Pope Paul VI eliminated the gold cross and abolished the gold buckles from all ecclesiastical shoes which Pope John XXIII added during his pontificate. Paul VI wore plain red leather shoes throughout the rest of his pontificate and for which we see currently on Pope Benedict XVI.

Source: Nainfa, John Abel. Costume of Prelates of the Catholic Church. Baltimore: John Murry Company, 1926.

Shoe my feet, O Lord, in preparation for the gospel of
peace, and protect me in the cover of your wings.

(This is a reprint from the now defunct Catholic Eye Candy blog.) 


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