The ‘papal tartan’ is actually properly known as the St Ninian’s Day Tartan and was created to mark the visit to Scotland of Pope Benedict XVI on September 16 2010 – the Feast of St Ninian, Scotland’s first missionary.
The tartan was famously worn by the Pope in his drive down Edinburgh’s Princes Street after being smuggled into Holyrood Palace by Cardinal O’Brien!
Its multi-colour design is carefully chosen to tell a unique story of faith and culture:
- The white line on blue field draws upon Scotland's national colours while the green reflects the lichens growing on the stones of Whithorn in Galloway. It was there that Ninian first brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to Scottish shores over 1600 years ago.
- The white lines are also accompanied by a pair of red lines, reflecting the colours of Cardinal Newman's crest. (Newman was beatified during the Papal visit).
- Each white line on the green contains exactly eight threads, one for each Catholic diocese in Scotland. There are 452 threads in the design from pivot to pivot, representing the number of Catholic parishes.
- And finally, the thin yellow lines in the tartan, together with the white, reflect the colours of the Vatican.
The tartan was worn by leaders of each of the main political parties in Scotland after being gifted them by Cardinal Keith O’Brien. The Cardinal said: “It’s a great honour to be able to hand over the first ever tartan created for a Papal Visit as a thank you to all the Holyrood parliamentarians who have been so overwhelmingly supportive of this visit, knowing it means so much to the Catholic community and many others in this country. I gifted the tartan to the Holy Father during his time here. What could give him a greater Scottish welcome than a new tartan created in honour of this historic visit.”
Michael Lemetti of ClanItalia said: “I’ve been involved in the creation of some high profile tartans, including a bespoke design for AC Milan, but this one tops the lot! The tartan looks brilliant and is full of fabulous Scottish symbolism. I’m sure Pope Benedict loved it.”