St. Pope John Paul II: A Mitre from His Time as Archbishop of Krakow

St. Pope John Paul II: A Mitre from His Time as Archbishop of Krakow

St. Pope John Paul II: A Miter, Close up of Lappets


A mitre is a  liturgical headdress worn by Roman Catholic bishops and abbots. It has two shield-shaped stiffened halves that face the front and back and two fringed streamers, featured here, known as lappets, that hang from the back.

In 1958 Pope Pius XII appointed Father Karol Wojtyla the auxiliary bishop of Kraków.  It was the last historic act of the nineteen-year pontificate of Pius XII, who died eleven days later.

At the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) Wojtyła so distinguished himself that halfway through the council, in December 1963, Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Kraków.

While most mitres are pure white this one is particularly elaborate in its design. A large cross on a field of gold and blue is the centerpiece of the shield, and it is repeated along its base. 

 The remainder of the shield and lappets are a mixture of a gold floral lief pattern on white.

The coat of arms Bishop Wojtyla chose (and kept as Pope John Paul II) is on the lappets of the mitre.

This is truly a treasured and stunning addition to this Collection, and, as an item of clothing worn by a saint, it is also a second-class relic adding to its spiritual value.

Coat of Arms of Saint John Paul IICoat of Arms of Saint John Paul II

The Coat of Arms & Motto of Bishop Karol Wojtyla
Retained by Pope John Paul II

The coat of arms  features a gold cross set against a blue backdrop. The cross represents the central Christian mystery of the Redemption. The vertical part of the cross has been shifted slightly to the left to make room for the majestic capital M, which reminds us of Mary’s presence at Jesus’ death on the cross.

The motto of Bishop Wojtyla, which he kept as pope, along with his coat of arms, expresses his devotion to Mary and  is the simple Latin expression “Totus Tuus.” It means, “Totally Yours!”

Located directly behind the pontiff’s personal coat of arms are the symbols of papal authority: the tiara and the keys of Saint Peter. The papal tiara, or triregnum, is formed of three crowns and symbolizes the triple power of the pope, for he is father of kings, governor of the world, and Vicar of Christ. The keys, which represent those given by Christ to the apostle Peter, are crossed and tied with a cord.

 Since the fourteenth century, the two crossed keys have been the official insignia of the Holy See.

Black & White Signed Photo of Pope John Paul II as Bishop Karol Wojtyla
+Karol Wojtyla

Father Richard Kunst

When John Paul was elected in 1978, there wasn’t a 24 hour news service, or the internet like we have today that made hundreds of photographs of him available. There weren’t hardly any pictures available to even show people around the world what he looked like.

This is the photograph of Bishop Wojtyla that was used by the press in Austria to announce his election as Pope. It was the only one made available to them.

I got this from a guy who used to collect bishop memorabilia in Austria. He was a government worker, and when Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope, they gave this picture to all the media in Austria at the time. So they actually used this picture of him. There are a whole bunch of little notes on the back of the picture, but the significant thing about this is that it’s signed by Bishop Wojtyla. So when the government worker originally had it, there was just the signature, but all the notes on the back were from the different media outlets using this picture. It was the only thing Austria had to show what the new pope looked like. And so it’s significant because it is connected to the announcement of this new Pope from Poland.

So then you think about how many people saw him in the next 26 years. He reached out to so many individuals, both on a personal level and on a grander scale, at world-wide events.  I think  it’s one of the reasons why I think he’ll go down in history with the title, “the Great.”

You hear many people talking today about John Paul the Great. He was a shepherd that went everywhere and reached out to all types of people, and I think that is one of the defining characteristics of a saint.

Speaking more about the title, “the Great.” We have two other popes who regularly get that title: Leo and Gregory, and sometimes Nicholas, but mostly the first two, and there’s no formal ceremony that grants the title. It’s just popular usage, and so I use that title often when I’m referring to him to kind of move that along a little bit.

  • Date January 15, 2024
  • Tags Clothing, St. John Paul II