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Juan de Valdés Leal, Finis gloriae mundi (1672). Seville, Hospital de la Caridad

Sic transit gloria mundi 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!") 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.[2][3][4] 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").[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] It parodied her education by its use of stock phrases and morals.[8] Larry Correia used this quote on the Memorial Plaque honoring the memory of the fallen in the book Monster Hunter International, by Larry Correia:[9]

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

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 (Japanese: jōsha hissui), 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 is 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).[10]

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. ^ King, William Henry Francis (1904), Classical and Foreign Quotations, London: J. Whitaker & Sons, p. 319, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  3. ^ Richardson, Carol M., Reclaiming Rome: cardinals in the fifteenth century, p. 393, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  4. ^ Bak, János M., Coronations: medieval and early modern monarchic ritual, p. 187, retrieved November 10, 2010 
  5. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (via Oxford Reference) 
  6. ^ à Kempis, Thomas. "Book 1 Chapter 3". Imitation of Christ: translated from Latin into English. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved 11 November 2010. 
  7. ^ The poems of Emily Dickinson, 3, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 53 
  8. ^ Ablow, Rachel (2010), The Feeling of Reading, p. 107 
  9. ^ Monster Hunter International, Baen Books, 2009 
  10. ^ Chapter 1.1, Helen Craig McCullough's translation