Borgia Pope Alexander's Vestments & Regalia Gain Interest


There is a growing interest in everything Renaissance since the SHOWTIME Borgia Series was aired. Among the clothing styles of the time, only papal vestments and regalia seem to have survived nearly unchanged in design. 

Actually each Pope  was given or had made many new garments and accessories. Over the centuries, dozens of variations of each have been created each incorporating the holy and traditional symbols of the Church and the office. Perhaps the most widely known of papal recreations is each Pope's unique ring. Upon death, the ring is immediately and ritually destroyed.

George Stuart has created five Historical Figures® of Popes. Two of Pope Alexander VI are depicted in highly formal attire. Now Mr. Stuart has prepared the following commentary detailing the meaning and importance of the vestments and regalia.     

Reference Source
The following information is excerpted from the Borgia Series Wiki (cancelled).

The regalia of the Pope on his coronation were to impress upon the communicants the manifestation of God’s splendor incarnatus in the person of his representative on earth. Although the earliest priests dressed simply, over time a grand elaboration evolved, especially at the highest levels of the clergy. Every aspect was symbolic. Over the centuries, popes commissioned many versions of vestments and regalia to be consistent with their views of simplicity or ornamentation. Many were destroyed or stolen during difficult times.The Historical Figure of Alexander VI was extrapolated from his images in Pinturicchio’s paintings in the Borgia apartment in the Vatican Palace, a portrait in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence and a bust of him from life in the Berlin Museum, and from other sources. As newly crowned Pope, he would show himself clothed very much as you see him here. These vestments would be changed often, as function and office required.

Papal Tiara

The Papal Tiara, triple crown tiara or triregnum was a primary symbol only of the Pope. Origins of the three crowns vary, but as the Trinity is held as the most significant aspect of the Roman Catholic faith, this could be its meaning. There are others. 

 The Finial
The Orb and cross
Top the tiara, the orb and cross finial represents God’s rule over the world.

 Papal Tiara and Coif
The Coif 
Under the Tiara is a white, close fitting cap, or more properly a coif. This was a standard article of dress for men. The cap kept the head warm and was often tied under the chin. It held the hair in place when heavier headgear was employed. And, as priests were tonsured, having the apex of their head shaved so the remaining hair appeared to be a form of crown, it served as protection against the elements as well.

 Cope of Vestments
The Cope and Vestal Hood
The Cope and Vestal Hood 
On the Back of the cope is the vestal hood. The origin of the cope was a Roman semicircular robe with a hood attached. Early Christians used this garment and gradually church leaders adopted it for ceremony and enhanced its decoration. The hood, no longer of practical purpose, was retained as a reminder of the garments humble origins. 

 Decorative Border of the Mantum
The Orphrey, Surpice and Stole
The Orphrey, Surpice and Stole
The decorative border of the cope or mantum is called the orphrey. In this case, it is a hagiography of the saints depicted with embroidery, jewels and embellishments. The cope is worn over a plain surpice, which has over it the stole, which is also encrusted with images and gold work.

The Cope or Mantum, and Morse
The cope and the more elaborate mantum used as elaborate clasp, called a morse to hold it together across the chest. It is often heavily ornamented with gold and gems.

 Papal Glove and Ring

The Papal Ring and Glove
During the Renaissance, it was fashionable to cut a slit in the third finger of the right glove to expose the Episcopal Ring. These rings symbolized a marriage to the Church and were given at consecration. Early papal rings were set with a precious stone. The name given at consecration was engraved on the mounting. It is traditional for communicants to kiss the pope’s ring in salute.  

Hagiography 1

Hagiography 2


The images are of saints, are called hagiography and are painted on sheets of silk covered in gold leaf and set in gold bullion couching and large paste stones.

 Alexander VI in Mitre

The pectoral cross and amise.
Here Alexander VI (1494) is shown at a ceremony wearing a mitre. The origins of the mitre in its recognizable form go back to the 13th century. Again, it has become ceremonial headgear for high clergy, loosely representing the wearer’s fealty to Rome and a secular as well as spiritual authority.

The pectoral cross hangs below the embroidered morse. Crosses from the simplest to the most ornamental were always part of the clerical dress. Just above the morse is a ‘C’-shaped band. This is the top of the amice, a large, plain napkin with a stiffened collar, which is tied around the neck to prevent chaffing by the edge of the cope. This image is missing the stole, which was unfinished when the photography was taken.

 Cope of Alexander VI Full Regalia 1492
The Mitre, Cope and Lapplets
The back of the cope worn by Alexander VI shows the vestigial hood embroidered with the papal crest. The lapplets going over the edge of the cope are now decorative remnants, but in earlier centuries were possibly ties to hold the mitre or tiara in place. 

 Alexander VI Full Regalia 1494e

A Global Dispute
In 1493, a dispute between Spain and Portugal arose as to which kingdom owned what part of the Americas then being discovered. It fell to Pope to decide who owned what.

Sword of Alexander VI

The Line in the Sand
The story is that the pope had a map of the known world laid out in sand on the floor at the Vatican, and with a specially designed silver sword he drew a line down the center, thus separating the new lands of the Spanish and the Portuguese. Later, in 1494 the division was refined and codified in the Treaty of Tordesillas and announced in a papal bull.

Ornate Cross

Ornate Cross or Crucifix 
From time immemorial, bishops have carried a staff called a crozier, while popes always carried some form of a croix or crucifix. Alexander VI is shown with two styles of crosses. One shows the cross with equal, but very ornamental arms, all set with gold and stones - very popular in the 15th and 16th centuries.

 Alexander VI with Simple Cross

Simple Cross, Uneven Arms
This cross is elegant and simple with three transoms or cross bars of different lengths. 

The Historical Figures shown here are from collections of George Stuart and Museum of Ventura CountyPhotography by Peter D'Aprix. See all the Historical Figures at our website and visit the Museum of Ventura County to see the current exhibit of Historical Figures.