Minnesota and North Dakota Chapter

Ceremonial Hammer for the Verification of the Death of a Pope

This ceremonial hammer was used to tap a recently deceased pope on the forehead calling him by his Christian name. If there was no answer to the third call, the pope was declared dead. This ritual is said to have been used for the last time for Blessed pope John XXIII.

This example dates back to the mid 20th century. It is made of Ebony and gilded silver. It measures 22 by 9 by 2 cm.

This 2002 conservation was courtesy of The Minnesota Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

11 Responses to “Ceremonial Hammer for the Verification of the Death of a Pope”

  1. Bob Smith December 31, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Which end of the hammer did they use, the flat end or the chisel end?

  2. Chapter Chair January 12, 2014 at 2:13 am #

    ‘Twas the flat end. 🙂

  3. sarah March 28, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    I have to ask, why a hammer?

  4. aulo March 28, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    what is the origin of this ritual? when did it began? Thanks.

  5. Tony Garnsey March 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    I pray they don’t leave a dent 🙁

  6. Chris Watson March 28, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Tapping the Pope with the hammer is a myth. In reality, the hammer was used to smash the papal ring and seal, this ensuring that no forged documents could be released under the Pope’s name after his death.

  7. Grammar Gloria March 28, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    if “their” was no answer to the third call?

  8. JC Hoenigman March 28, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    Is there an “Official Name” for this Hammer?

  9. Marie Rose March 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    Are you saying then that this wasn’t used on St. John Paul II?

  10. jesse March 28, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    Are they checking to see if he’s dead or making sure? 😛

  11. Benjamin Achi March 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    That means some popes could possibly have been buried alive because someone in coma may not wake up even with hundred taps of the hammer.

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