History of the Biretta


Can anyone out there give us the true history of the biretta? I had read that it had its origins as a kind of crown worn by delegates of the emperor when the church was based in Byzantium. I liked this because the priest stands for Christ the King in the liturgy and as a symbolic kind of crown it seemed suitable. 

However, on looking online I can only find historical references to the biretta as a piece of medieval academic or juridical headgear.
So does it date back to before the middle ages or not? I think we should be told. I don’t want to be wearing any new fangled headgear. If it’s only five hundred years old, and only some sort of fancy mortarboard, I am going to seriously question whether to keep wearing mine or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06045671399767437432 Juan Tolentino

    Catholic Encyclopedia to the rescue, Father! :)http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02577a.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BirettaWikipedia's article also seems informative. I always thought it had something to do with whether or not a priest has a formal theology degree or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15000747762174079070 PraiseDivineMercy

    I would be sad if you stopped wearing the biretta because of its historical origin in the mortarboard, for this connection underlines how the Church was once THE primary support of learning in Europe. The fact that most educated people were also priests probably led to the crossover.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01960521706457744649 Tara

    But Father–the biretta looks as if it would keep your head nice and warm, and it makes one appear taller.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17284905121465747077 Steve

    Looks nice, Father, but the last thing we need in the Catholic church is the priest walking into Mass thinking that he’s royalty. Christ the King rejected the earthly trappings of royalty; he was much more at home with the towel with which he washed his followers’ feet. Please, please God, may we not be subjected to another generation of priests who think (or act as if) they are monarchs.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    The priest can only be a monarch if he keeps in mind the ideal of the Christian king. He is the one who is the servant of all. Indeed, the medieval Christian kings used, on Maundy Thursday, wrap a towel around their waist and wash the feet of twelve beggars. The priest king mirrors Christ the King who is King because he lays down his life for his subjects. The King who leads them into battle and dies for them. The good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.I agree that any other kind of monarch priest is anathema.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01379244511897838006 Marcus Aurelius

    If I were in Fr. L’s shoes I’m not sure I’d think of myself as a king when in persona christi. I suppose I can see a Tolkein fan getting into a christ the king image in good faith, though. I see Steve’s point regarding the dangers of clericalism – that we can’t let the priests get to full of themselves, but I tend to imagine that people need to use what works for them when taking on that mantle in the sacramental office of priesthood. After mass however, can’t let our priests slide into clericalism however. Then again, the laity need to be in their guard against disobedience and religious ‘bolshevism’. So what’s all this to do with hats? I suppose that the hat is good if it helps the priest and his flock with the in personal christi thing. Just my 2 cents.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12594214770417497135 Maureen

    We’re a royal people, heirs of God Himself, as well as sons of King Adam and daughters of Queen Eve. We have a royal priesthood, too — the order of Melchizadek — as well as priests being in persona Christi Reges (or whatever Rex is in this declension). So geez, all you worshipful monarchs out there! Just let the priest get in touch with his inner priest, prophet, and king every once in a while. He’ll have to deal with Parish Council soon enough!

  • http://openid.aol.com/paulabbe paulabbe

    “If it’s only five hundred years old, and only some sort of fancy mortarboard, I am going to seriously question whether to keep wearing mine or not.”Now THAT’S a serious TRADI. I say, if a choice between that, and a cowboy hat, (or a John Deere cap), wear the biretta.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632714882132276803 George Weis

    Father D.,I was thinking that perhaps you could take up that wide brimmed hat worn by the fellow in your profile pic. His face reminds me of the guy from “Keys of the Kingdom”.-g-

  • http://openid.aol.com/Bing22047 Bing22047

    Looks great on you, Father!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13214353380686624557 DPhilippi

    My new book Kopfbedeckungen in Religion, Glaube und Spiritualität has been published recently. The publishing house is St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig. This hardcover book showcases the entire Philippi headwear collection and more in over 1,000 fascinating and exclusive photographs. Picture of the coverDescription of the book


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