ornament of wrought gold set with gems, generally sapphires, that is blessed by the pope on the fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday) and sent, as one of the highest honours he can confer, to some distinguished individual, ecclesiastical body, or religious community or, failing a worthy recipient, kept in the Vatican. Many of these historical examples of the goldsmith's art, being of great value, have been melted down. The origin of the custom is obscure, the first reliable accounts dating from the 11th century. Of more symbolic than material significance, the rose was usually sent, like the papal cap and sword, for political as well as religious reasons, together with an explanatory letter
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