Pope Francis has given out a total of five Golden Roses during his pontificate to different shrines around the world.

It turns out this unique papal tradition is over a thousand years old!

In the year 1096 AD, Pope Urban II blessed and gifted the first (that we historically know of) Golden Rose to Fulk IV, Count of Anjou of France as a sign of papal reverence. Why a golden rose? The golden rose symbolizes a brief reminder of the Risen Christ to come, as the rose is typically blessed 21 days before Easter on Laetare Sunday, also known as Rose Sunday.

Pope Innocent III perhaps described it best:

“As Lætare Sunday, the day set apart for the function, represents love after hate, joy after sorrow, and fullness after hunger, so does the rose designate by its colour, odour and taste, love, joy and satiety respectively. ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.’ – Isaiah 11:1”

Throughout history, Golden Roses have been given to people – men, women, and one married couple – as well as to states, churches, and shrines.

In the twentieth century Pius X, Benedict XV, John XXIII, and John Paul I made no awards of the Golden Rose. The practice was revived by Pius XI, continued by Pius XII, and from there on became a common papal tradition once again. Since Paul VI, all Golden Roses have been awarded to churches. All of Benedict XVI’s awards were to Marian shrines.

  • Paul VI (1963–1978) made five awards
  • John Paul II (1978–2005) made nine awards
  • Benedict XVI (2005–2013) made eighteen awards
  • Francis to do date has five awards of the Golden Rose: November 2013, July 2016, May and October 2017, June 2019
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