March 21, 1800: 10 Famous Religious Hats and Headgear

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A Brief History

On March 21, 1800, Pius VII was crowned Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in Venice, Italy. In Venice because of armed conflict taking place in Italy at the time, Pius was crowned with a tiara (crown) made of papier-mache! Popes are normally seen wearing either their imposing Mitre or their beanie-like Zucchetto. Today we use this historical deviation from normal papal headwear to list 10 Famous Religious Hats and Headgear, head coverings either famous or of particular interest. What sort of headgear would you add to the list? (Note: That circle of light around my head is called a “halo”…)

Digging Deeper

1. Papal Tiara.

A large, ornate crown worn by Popes from 1143 until 1963 when Pope Paul VI was the last to use it. A three-tiered arrangement since the 14th Century, the papal crown is also called the triregnum, triple crown, or triple tiara. This crown is no mere fancy hat, but a royal crown adorned with precious jewels and metals, ornate and large, tall like the papal mitre but largely metal in construction. Originally the papal tiara was conical in form and evolved into a more rounded top with a cross on top of the tiara. The papal tiaras varied in weight from abut 2 pounds to a massive 18 pounder donated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804 in honor of both his marriage to Josephine and his coronation as Emperor of the French, as many of the papal tiaras were donations from Kings. The Napoleon tiara (for Pope Pius VII) was made up of parts of other papal tiaras that had been destroyed over the years. Today, 22 papal tiaras remain.

2. Papal Mitre.

A tall, shovel shaped hat heavily adorned with embroidery and sometimes small jewels, the mitre is also worn other Christian clerics, usually Bishops or Abbots, but also others among the Orthodox Christian clergy. The shape of the mitre can vary from coming to a point to being rounded or ball shaped on top. Unlike the tiara, the mitre is mostly cloth and normally can be folded. The mitre is worn for formal or ceremonial purposes.

3. Papal Zucchetto.

This type of skull cap is similar to the Jewish yarmulke and is the familiar “beanie” the pope is often seen wearing when not in formal or ceremonial attire. This beret like hat is made of cloth, is colored red, and is usually unadorned.

4. Papal Camauro.

Made of wool or velvet with white ermine trim, this cloth cap is named from camel skin caps of old. The camauro takes the place of the zucchetto for winter cold weather wear. It is usually round and without adornment.

5. Yarmulke.

A staple of the Jewish religion, Jewish men wear the beanie like skull cap at Synagogue, although some prefer to wear a yarmulke all the time. For those that wear a yarmulke (also called kippah) all the time, it is permissible to wear another outer hat over the skullcap, such as a wide brimmed fedora or shtreimel. Married Jewish women wear a scarf (tichel) or snood or a wig (scheitel).

6. Turban.

Worn by men of the Sikh religion and by some Islamic sects, the turban is a long band of cloth wrapped in a particular way around the head of pious men. It is not uncommon for Sikh or Muslim men to take offense at someone mistaking them for a person of the other religion as they immediately recognize the specific way in which their version of the turban is wound. Turban’s are also worn for non-religious reasons, such as by chemo-therapy patients that have lost their hair, people with head wounds, or even for fashionable purposes.

7. Cowl.

Friars and monks that wear robes of their office often also have a cowl as part of their religious habit, a hood like head covering that may or may not be worn up over the head or down behind the head.

8. Coif/Cornette/Wimple.

Christian nuns traditionally have worn habits that include some sort of uniform headgear, such as a wimple, coif or cornette. The head covering often covers the nun’s hair completely, but not always. The cornette is the extremely large headpiece once worn on the television show, The Flying Nun, in which the hat was so large and winglike that the lightweight nun (Sally Fields) could fly in a wind. When the author was a lad, girls and women were required to wear some sort of head covering while in church (Catholic), often a light scarf (babushka) or a doily like lacy thing, although that practice seems to have faded away. Catholic girls wear veils when making their first communion, along with their wedding-like white dresses.

9. Burqa/Hijab/Chador/Niqab/Khimar.

Muslim women often wear a scarf or cowl type of headdress that hides their hair and sometimes part or all of their face. These head coverings are worn for the purpose of modesty, often with a veil across the face, whenever the woman is in a public place. Not all Muslims practice this sort of face and or head covering, and the type of head covering for Muslim women is dictated by local tradition.

10. Amish Hats.

Amish women and girls wear bonnets when outside the home, and the men normally wear black, broad brimmed felt hats with no adornment. For summer time work and casual wear, the men wear a straw hat (stroh hoot) in deference to the heat. It is permissible for Amish men to wear a knit hat in cold weather, or some sort of knit ear protection in addition to their broad brimmed hat.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Campbell, RK. Headship and head covering: According to scripture. Believers Bookshelf , 1984.

Gardiner, Jeremy. Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. Head Covering Movement, 2016.

Kuhns, Elizabeth. The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns. Image, 2005.

Milligan, Amy. Hair, Headwear, and Orthodox Jewish Women: Kallah’s Choice. Lexington Books, 2014.

Renne, Elisha. Veils, Turbans, and Islamic Reform in Northern Nigeria. Indiana University Press, 2018.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.