Sic transit gloria mundi

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Sic transit gloria mundi is a Latin phrase that means "Thus passes the glory of the world." It has been interpreted as "Worldly things are fleeting." It is possibly an adaptation of a phrase in Thomas à Kempis's 1418 work The Imitation of Christ: "O quam cito transit gloria mundi" ("How quickly the glory of the world passes away").[1][2]

The phrase was used in the ritual of papal coronation ceremonies between 1409 (when it was used at the coronation of Alexander V)[3] and 1963. As the newly chosen pope proceeded from the sacristy of St. Peter's Basilica in his sedia gestatoria, the procession stopped three times. On each occasion a papal master of ceremonies would fall to his knees before the pope, holding a silver or brass reed, bearing a tow of smoldering flax. For three times in succession, as the cloth burned away, he would say in a loud and mournful voice, "Sancte Pater, sic transit gloria mundi!" ("Holy Father, so passes worldly glory!") These words, thus addressed to the pope, served as a reminder of the transitory nature of life and earthly honors. The stafflike instrument used in the aforementioned ceremony is known as a "sic transit gloria mundi", named for the master of ceremonies' words.[4][5][6]

Emily Dickinson used the line in a whimsical valentine written to William Howland in 1852 and subsequently published in the Springfield Daily Republican:[7]

Sic transit gloria mundi
How doth the busy bee,
Dum vivimus vivamus,
I stay my enemy!

This parodied her education by its use of stock phrases and morals.[8]

A slightly truncated version, "sic transit gloria," also appears in the Wes Anderson movie Rushmore. The phrase illustrates a central theme of the film. This in turn was used by the American rock band Brand New for the title of a song on their album Deja Entendu, "Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades," about the loss of sexual innocence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (via Oxford Reference) 
  2. ^ à Kempis, Thomas. "Book 1 Chapter 3". Imitation of Christ: translated from Latin into English. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved 11 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Elizabeth Knowles, ed. (2005). The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860981-0. 
  4. ^ King, William Henry Francis (1904), 319 Classical and Foreign Quotations, London: J. Whitaker & Sons, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  5. ^ Richardson, Carol M., Reclaiming Rome: cardinals in the fifteenth century, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  6. ^ Bak, János M., Coronations: medieval and early modern monarchic ritual, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  7. ^ The poems of Emily Dickinson 3, Harvard University Press, 1998 
  8. ^ Ablow, Rachel (2010), The Feeling of Reading