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Papal Slippers

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Thomas Lawrence - Pope Pius VII

Pope Pius VII wearing papal slippers (1819, Thomas Lawrence, Royal Collection, Windsor).

Reliquienschrein Papst Johannes XXIII - Petersdom

Glass sarcophagus of Pope John XXIII in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Papal Slippers are a historical vestment of the Roman Catholic Church traditionally worn by the pope. The papal slippers are a form of episcopal sandals worn by bishops. However, unlike the episcopal sandals, which change with the liturgical color, the papal slippers are always red. Red was the official papal color until the 16th century when Pope Pius V, a Dominican, continued wearing the white Dominican habit.

Elaborately embroidered, the papal slippers are 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 kneel down to kiss one of his slippers.

The pope traditionally wore the papal slippers inside the papal residence, while red leather papal shoes were worn outdoors. Pope Paul VI discontinued the use of the papal slippers. However, he did continue to wear the outdoor red papal shoes, which were abandoned by Pope John Paul II in favor of his favorite cordovan brown leather walking shoes made in his native Poland.

Pope Benedict XVI has restored the tradition of the red outdoor papal shoes, similar to those worn by Paul VI.

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