Biretta sightings

Some of you are interested in clerical headwear.

Here are some birettas spotted during the Holy Father’s Mass today, celebrated in St. Peter’s Square, for the 2nd Sunday of Easter and his 80th birthday.

First, a cardinal and an Eastern prelate:

Next, a bishop’s biretta:


If I am not mistaken, I think that is my bishop, on the left…. hmmmm….

Next , biretta’s worn by judges of the  Rota and Segnatura, in other words, the sort that can be worn by protonotaries and by canons of the major basilicas.

I am pleased to see these clerics all observing the proper biretiquette. 


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TJM says:

    Unfortunately I did not see the Liturgy. Was it a “Marini Special Over Easy” or more of a “Benedictine Deluxe?” Thanks, Tom

  2. swmichigancatholic says:

    Seeing all of these birettas is new, isn’t it? I mean I recall lots of bare heads before.

  3. swmichigancatholic says:

    When *is* Abp. Marini going to take position of his new job? Throw the guy a pizza party and let’s get on with this.

    BTW has anyone heard whose liturgy he’s going to mangle where he’s going yet?

  4. Father V. says:


    In a nutshell, what is the proper biretiquette (great word!) for a parish priest? When would it be worn and not worn.


    Father V.

  5. Embajador says:

    Last Sunday after (traditional) mass my oldest daughter (aged 9) asked me why the priest wore “that funny hat” (biretta), and also why the “funny hat” had the fluffy ball on top. I would really appreciate an answer to this, she is insisting and I am just scared she finally finds out dad does not in fact know EVERYTHING.

  6. Is it just my lack of experience in this business of biretta-wearing, or does the bishop (to the right of Fr Z.’s bishop) look like he has an ill-fitting biretta? It looks like it would fall off the crown of his head in a light breeze.

  7. SMJ says:

    It is the zuchetto under the biretta of the bishop.

  8. Scott N. says:

    I think the canon on the right in the last picture is about 90 degrees shy of “proper biretiquette.”

  9. Cerimoniere says:

    The two prelates in the bottom picture are both wearing birettas with four ridges, rather than the usual three. I believe the canons of certain chapters enjoy this privilege, as do Premonstratensian canons, and indeed the entire clergy of some dioceses. The birettas of doctors of sacred sciences are also of this form, but those are not worn during the liturgy, only within the university. I wasn’t aware that protonotaries also had this privilege, as Father suggests, so I have learned something from this post!

  10. Scott N. says:

    Are you sure about that, Cerimoniere? I’m happy to be corrected, but I really do not see a fourth horn on the left side of the other prelate’s biretta.

  11. That is a four cornered biretta.

  12. dcs says:

    The one on the left does not look as if it has four horns, but the one on the right definitely does.

    Fr. V., the following is from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article on the biretta: “It may be said in general that the biretta is worn in processions and when seated, as also when the priest is performing any act of jurisdiction, e.g. reconciling a convert.

    So during Holy Mass a priest would wear it during the entrance procession, the recession, and any time at which he is seated. He would remove it and bow his head at the mention of the Holy Name.

  13. Scott N. says:

    To be honest, I still cannot see that there’s a fourth horn on that biretta, but I am more than willing to take your word for it, Father. I stand corrected.

    But who cares about headgear, really: check out that mantelletta!

  14. GWS says:

    Howcome no one has mentioned that whether or not the black birettas in question have three or four horns no one but cardinals and papal nuncios are allowed to wear watered silk? I see a lot of this where lower clergy wear all sorts of things made of watered silk. While some things made of silk are permitted to lesser prelates and lower clergy they cannot be of watered silk. That is reserved to cardinals and nuncios.

  15. Jan from Holland says:

    Now if they’d only reject and refuse to practice the sacrilegious Communion into the hand, things might really improve a bit. Beyond birettas and ferraiuolos.

  16. Cerimoniere says:

    Looking back, I think perhaps I was wrong and Scott was right. I think that I mistook the shadow cast by the pompom for a fourth horn on the biretta on the left. So perhaps the two prelates were otherwise of equal rank, but were canons of different chapters, only of which has the privilege of the fourth horn! Or perhaps the one on the right was wearing his STD biretta at Mass, when he shouldn’t have been…

    On a related matter, that is a very fine mantelletta picture. One of the minor bits of collateral damage inflicted by the new rites, is the expression of collegiality by insisting that bishops wear the mozzetta even outside their jurisdiction. Therefore, the mantelletta is to be seen only on those prelates, quite rare outside Rome, who still have the privilege.

  17. canon1753 says:

    I know that the Rotal Auditors do have several privileges of vesture, especially
    when in Rome. Of course, I don’t have the book of Rotal vesture….

  18. Antonius says:

    How I wish for the complete return of the mantelletta for all bishops and cardinals when they ought to wear it (e.g. in Rome) as seen on the sharp-looking prelates in the Signatura and Rota.

  19. Dieter says:

    During the last time I studied a lot about clerical headgear. It is very interesting what models of birettas and zucchettos had been worn in the past.

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