Canonical coronation

A canonical coronation (Latin: coronatio canonica) is a pious institutional act of the Pope, duly expressed in a Papal bull[1][2] in which oftentimes a Papal legate or Papal nuncio, or at rare occasions the Pontiff himself designates a crown, tiara, or stellar halo[3] to a Christological, Marian, or Josephian image with a specific devotional title that is prominently venerated in a particular diocese or locality.[4][5]

Previously, the Holy Office issued the authorization of a canonical coronation through a dicastery called the "Vatican Chapter", and later the Sacred Congregation of Rites was assigned this duty. Since 1989, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments executes the act that the decree authorizes.


The custom of crowning holy images originated with the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, who through their evangelical missionaries collected great quantities of jewelry associated with indulgences, which funded the golden crowns or accessories for images of the Virgin Mary. A Capuchin friar, Jeronimo Paolucci di Calboldi di Forli (1552-1620) was a major advocate for this practice, and was known during his life as the self-proclaimed "Apostle of the Blessed Lady." Forli crowned the Nursing Madonna after a simple homily, now enshrined at the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata on 27 May 1601.

In addition, in 3 July 1636, the Marquis of Piacenza and Count of Borgonovo, Alessandro Sforza Cesarini died, upon which he bequeathed in his last will and testament a large sum of money to the Vatican Chapter, be invested to produce crowns of precious metals for the coronation of the most celebrated Marian images in the world. The funds of his testament went towards the restoration of ‘’Madonna della Febbre’’ now enshrined in the sacristy of Saint Peter’s Basilica. [6]

In Catholic religious practice

The practice and public declaration of coronation became widely popular in the Papal states prior to 1800, and approximately 300 coronation rites were performed. On 29 March 1897, an official rite was included in the Roman Pontifical, for which a plenary indulgence was also conceded to the faithful who participated in such rites.[7]

  • The first Marian image that was ceremoniously crowned without direct Papal approbation was performed by Cardinal Francesco Sforza Pallavicino to La Madonna della Oropa on 30 August 1620.
  • The first Marian image that was Pontificaly crowned was Lippo Memmi’s painting of La Madonna della Febbre (Madonna of Fever) in the sacristy of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome on 27 May 1631, by Pope Urban VIII through the Vatican Chapter.
  • The first Marian image crowned by a Pope himself instead of a proxy papal legate was the “Madonna Del Populo” on 3 June 1782, by Pope Pius VI, at the Cesena Cathedral.

The solemn prescription of ritual to crown images is embedded in the "Ordo Coronandi Imaginem Beatae Mariae Virginis", published by the Holy Office on 25 May 1981. Prior to 1989, Papal bulls authorizing canonical coronations were subscribed manually on parchment. After 1989, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments began issuing the authorizations, and expressed the approbated devotional title of the image and authorizing a Papal legate to perform the coronation in behalf of the Supreme Pontiff.


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