The pallium, in its present form, is a narrow band, "three fingers broad," woven of white lamb's wool, with a loop in the centre resting on the shoulders over the cheuble, and two dependent lappets, before and behind; so that when seen from front or back the ornament resembles the letter Y. It is decorated with six purple crosses, one on each tail and four on the loop, is doubled on the left shoulder, and is garnished, back and front, with three jewelled gold pins. The two latter characteristics seem to be survivals of the time when the Roman pallium, was a simple scarf doubled and pinned on the left shoulder.
The origin of the pallium as an ecclesiastical vestment is lost in antiquity. The theory that explains it in connexion with the figure of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb on his shoulders, so common in early Christian art, is obviously an explanation a posteriori. The ceremonial connected with the preparation of the pallium and its bestowal upon the pope at his coronation, however, suggests some such symbolism. The lambs whose wool is destined for the making, of the pallia are solemnly presented at the altar by the nuns of the convent of Saint Agnes at March, 1644.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.