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Sic transit gloria mundi (sometimes shortened to STGM) is a Latin phrase that means "Thus passes the glory of the world".



The phrase was used in the ritual of papal coronation ceremonies between 1409 (when it was used at the coronation of Alexander V)[1] 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, "Pater Sancte, sic transit gloria mundi!" ("Holy Father, so passes worldly glory!")[2] 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.[3][4][5] A form of the phrase appeared 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").[6][7]

Other usesEdit

After the end of the War of 1812, a reader named "Albion" submitted a letter to the British Naval Chronicle. Referring to the United States, he declared "the rising greatness of this distant empire (and its distance is, perhaps, fortunate for Europe) astonishes the nations who have looked on with wonder, and seen the mightiest efforts of Britain, at the era of her greatest power, so easily parried, so completely foiled". At the end of his letter he pens "Sic transit Gloria mundi" as a final acknowledgment of downward trend of British naval superiority and the rise of American power at sea.[8]

Emily Dickinson used the line in a whimsical valentine written to William Howland in 1852 and subsequently published in the Springfield Daily Republican.[9] It parodied her education by its use of stock phrases and morals.[10]

"Sic transit gloria mundi,"
"How doth the busy bee,"
"Dum vivimus vivamus,"
I stay mine enemy! [...]

The science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. ends with the world being destroyed in nuclear war. A Catholic monk, boarding a starship escaping Earth at the last moment, murmurs Sic transit mundus ("Thus passes the world").

In the vintage computer game Super Star Trek, "Sic transit Gloria mundi" is printed out when you fail to rematerialize at the nearest starbase after calling for help, and thus lose the game.

Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades” is a single by the band Brand New that was released in 2003. The song's title is a reference to a line from the 1998 film Rushmore.

Analogous sayingsEdit

There are countless sayings in various languages expressing the same sentiment; in English most idiomatic is "All that's fair must fade," following a line of Thomas Moore.

Within Buddhism, the corresponding doctrine is impermanence. In East Asian Buddhism, the analogous saying is the four-character idiom 盛者必衰 (Chinese: {shengzhebishuai}), from a passage in the Humane King Sutra, 「盛者必衰、実者必虚」, which translates as "The prosperous inevitably decline, the full inevitably empty". In Japan this is well-known due to its use in the opening line of The Tale of the Heike, whose latter half reads "the color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline." (沙羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰の理を顯す, Sarasōju no hana no iro, jōshahissui no kotowari wo arawasu).[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Elizabeth Knowles, ed. (2005). The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860981-0.
  2. ^ "Pope John XXIII Coronation Video - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi".
  3. ^ King, William Henry Francis (1904), Classical and Foreign Quotations, London: J. Whitaker & Sons, p. 319, retrieved November 10, 2010
  4. ^ Richardson, Carol M., Reclaiming Rome: cardinals in the fifteenth century, p. 393, retrieved November 10, 2010
  5. ^ Bak, János M., Coronations: medieval and early modern monarchic ritual, p. 187, retrieved November 10, 2010
  6. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (via Oxford Reference)
  7. ^ à Kempis, Thomas. "Book 1 Chapter 3". Imitation of Christ: translated from Latin into English. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  8. ^ Toll, Ian W. (2006). Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 473. ISBN 9780393330328. OCLC 70291925.
  9. ^ The poems of Emily Dickinson, 3, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 53
  10. ^ Ablow, Rachel (2010), The Feeling of Reading, p. 107
  11. ^ Chapter 1.1, Helen Craig McCullough's translation