Here’s a thing. Popes may be transported on the sedia gestatoria fastened on a suppedaneum by twelve palafrenieri and flanked by the flabellum, and if you’ve ever been flanked by the flabellum, you know how painful that can be.

The sedia gestat…never mind, it’s a satin sedan chair carried by six men on each side—was a practical necessity in pre-popemobile times, because one of the solemn duties of the pope is to wear up to seventy pounds of frippery until the day he dies, and that can take a lot out of a pope, many of whom do not have a drag queen’s sturdy constitution.

There’s nothing like a freshly dead Pope to plunge you into the catacombs of Wikipedia. Here’s a dead pope fact: there was one named Formosus who, in 897, was posthumously executed. Somebody was mad at him and upset that he had died before being brought to justice. So his corpse was exhumed and propped up on a throne to be put on trial in the so-called Cadaver Synod. Then his corpse was found guilty, executed, stripped, reburied unfancily, dug up again, and thrown in the river, and when it washed ashore, it performed some miracles for a while, as one does, and was re-interred. By that time, he was not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Which brings us to the ruby slippers. And the other frippery. You have to have constructed parade floats for years before they’ll let you dress a pope. At any given time, the pope (he/his) might be wearing a triregnum, falda, and mantum, with a pallium or omophorium over his chasuble, a fanon in silver and gold stripes, and a sub-cinctorum. (The mantum is nothing but a very long cope, although the pope cope is long to begin with.) The falda hangs underneath the alb, which is worn over the cassock but underneath the chasuble. Presumably when the pope is installed on a set of steps with his falda hanging out it makes him look taller, or, more accurately, like a very tall man whose feet start halfway up.

In addition to all this regalia the pope is expected to wield his personal papal ferula. This is a long rod with a knob at the end. In the interest of discretion a crucifix was eventually added, and, in the modern era, one of those little grabby things on top to get things off the high shelf.

Generally speaking all of this will be red, white, gold, or silver, depending on the occasion. The pope is also given his own golden Ring of the Fisherman which is used to seal papal briefs. it is none of our business what color the papal briefs are.

The triregnum was retired after about a thousand years in 1963. Also known as the papal tiara, it was a gigantic hat in three tiers like a wedding cake, although there appear to be some auxiliary tiers in there also; same way we talk about bread, baloney, and cheese sandwiches, but the mayo and lettuce are implied. I had suspected of course that the three tiers represented the Holy Trinity, and I figured that was why we stopped with the Father and Son and the Holy Ghost. If we added the Sacred Bugaboo and the Red-Headed Stepchild, the pope might tip over. But actually this was not true on a couple levels. One, although the triple crowns could go up to ten pounds, some of the popes had theirs made of papier-mâché and could have managed several other segments of Godhood. Two, it wasn’t about the Trinity after all. It represents the three powers of the Pope: father of kings, governor of the world, and vicar of Christ.

I wouldn’t have guessed they’d make such a public deal out of the pope being the father of anybody, but there you are. The shape of the tiara is based on the ancient Phrygian cap, a soft conical number with the apex folded over, associated since ancient times with a number of Eastern European peoples such as the Medes, the Scythians, and the Smurfs.

Naturally, because the heavily bejeweled papal tiara was insufficiently cumbersome for the governor of the world, a pair of lappets was added to the back, and two keys, silver and gold, tied with a red cord, symbolizing something or other.

It’s a lot. Fortunately for the pope, he can get away with just a white cassock, pelligrina, a tufted fascia, a pectoral cross, and a white zucchetto when he’s padding about the house in his little red velvet slippers.

I’ve seen pictures of Jesus. He usually wore a big sheet or, in extremis, less. They didn’t get all this from him. Honestly? I don’t know what-all they got from him.