Golden Rose - Encyclopedia

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GOLDEN ROSE (rosa aurea), an ornament made of wrought gold and set with gems, generally sapphires, which is blessed by the pope on the fourth (Laetare) Sunday of Lent, and usually afterwards sent as a mark of special favour to some distinguished individual, to a church, or a civil community. Formerly it was a single rose of wrought gold, coloured red, but the form finally adopted is a thorny branch with leaves and flowers, the petals of which are decked with gems, surmounted by one principal rose. The origin of the custom is obscure. From very early times popes have given away a rose on the fourth Sunday of Lent, whence the name Dominica Rosa, sometimes given to this feast. The practice of blessing and sending some such symbol (e.g. eulogiae) goes back to the earliest Christian antiquity, but the use of the rose itself does not seem to go farther back than the 11th century. According to some authorities it was used by Leo IX. (1049-1054), but in any case Pope Urban II. sent one to Fulk of Anjou during the preparations for the first crusade. Pope Urban V., who sent a golden rose to Joanna of Naples in 1366, is alleged to have been the first to determine that one should be consecrated annually. Beginning with the 16th century there went regularly with the rose a letter relating the reasons why it was sent, and reciting the merits and virtues of the receiver. When the change was made from the form of the simple rose to the branch is uncertain. The rose sent by Innocent IV. in 1244 to Count Raymond Berengar IV. of Provence was a simple flower without any accessory ornamentation, while the one given by Benedict XI. in 1303 or 1304 to the church of St Stephen at Perugia consisted of a branch garnished with five open and two closed roses enriched with a sapphire, the whole having a value of seventy ducats. The value of the gift varied according to the character or rank of the recipient. John XXII. gave away some weighing 12 oz., and worth from 250 to X3 25. Among the recipients of this honour have been Henry VI. of England, 1446; James III. of Scotland, on whom the rose (made by Jacopo Magnolio) was conferred by Innocent VIII.; James IV. of Scotland; Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, who received a rose from Leo X. in 1518; Henry VIII. of England, who received three, the last from Clement VII. in 1524 (each had nine branches, and rested on different forms of feet, one on oxen, the second on acorns, and the third on lions); Queen Mary, who received one in 1555 from Julius III.; the republic of Lucca, so favoured by Pius IV., in 1564; the Lateran Basilica by Pius V. three years later; the sanctuary of Loreto by Gregory XIII. in 1584; Maria Theresa, queen of France, who received it from Clement IX. in 1668; Mary Casimir, queen of Poland, from Innocent XI. in 1684 in recognition of the deliverance of Vienna by her husband, John Sobieski; Benedict XIII. (1726) presented one to the cathedral of Capua, and in 1833 was sent by Gregory XVI. to the church of St Mark's,Venice. In more recent times it was sent to Napoleon III. of France, the empress Eugenie, and the queens Isabella II., Christina (1886) and Victoria (1906) of Spain. The gift of the golden rose used almost invariably to accompany the coronation of the king of the Romans. If in any particular year no one is considered worthy of the rose, it is laid up in the Vatican.

Some of the most famous Italian goldsmiths have been employed in making the earlier roses; and such intrinsically valuable objects have, in common with other priceless historical examples of the goldsmiths' art, found their way to the meltingpot. It is, therefore, not surprising that the number of existing historic specimens is very small. These include one of the 14th century in the Cluny Museum, Paris, believed to have been sent by Clement V. to the prince-bishop of Basel; another conferred in 1458 on his native city of Siena by Pope Pius II.; and the rose bestowed upon Siena by Alexander VII., a son of that city, which is depicted in a procession in a fresco in the Palazzo Pubblico at Siena. The surviving roses of more recent date include that presented by Benedict XIII. to Capua cathedral; the rose conferred on the empress Caroline by Pius VII., 1819, at Vienna; one of 1833 (Gregory XVI.) at St Mark's, Venice; and Pope Leo XIII.'s rose sent to Queen Christina of Spain, which is at Madrid.


- Angelo Rocca, Aurea Rosa, &c. (1719); Busenelli, De Rosa Aurea. Epistola (1759); Girbal, La Rosa de oro (Madrid, 1820); C. Joret, La Rose d'or dans l'antiquite et au moyen dge (Paris, 1 89 2), pp. 43 2 -435; Eugene Muntz in Revue d'art chretien (1901), series v. vol. 12 pp. i-x i; De F. Mely, Le Tresor de Chartres (1886); Marquis de Mac Swiney Mashanaglass, Le Portugal et le Saint Siege: Les Roses d'or envoyees par les Papes aux rois de Portugal au X VI e siecle (1904); Sir C. Young, Ornaments and Gift consecrated by the Roman Pontiffs: the Golden Rose, the Cap and Swords presented to Sovereigns of England and Scotland (1864).

(J. T. S.*; E. A. J.)

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