QUAERITUR: When does a priest use a black zucchetto?

From a reader:

Hi Fr. Z,

I had a question about priestly "headware."  I am glad to see that the biretta is coming back in many places, but my question deals with the black zucchetto.  Obviously you still see bishops and the Holy Father wearing the zucchetto, but did priests ever wear them frequently?  And, if so, during what type of occasion would a priest wear the zucchetto?

While Popes, cardinals, and bishops (and bishops-elect) use the zucchetto, and some abbots, etc., normal garden variety priests and monsignors do not use the black zucchetto liturgically.

The only time they would use it would be to keep their bald spot warm in their drafty homes.

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  1. Santiago says:

    You might be interested in this photo (bottom photo on the blog entry) of a young English Oratorian in Rome wearing a black zuccheto. Coolness!


  2. GOR says:

    I have never known of priests wearing a zucchetto. However, in some religious orders novices wore them during their novitiate year. I don’t recall the provenance of the custom, but I suspect it had something to do with teaching humility.

    You wore it at all times and doffed it when meeting a professed member of the community – brother or priest. You removed it and held it in your hands with head bowed if spoken to by any professed member of the Order. I’m not sure if the custom still obtains in religious communities today. This was a few years (decades…) ago!

  3. David says:

    In Poland, members of some religious orders wear the zucchetto.

    This tradition is continued by their members in the USA, for example, by the Paulines at Corpus Christi Church, Buffalo, NY, and at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, PA.

  4. Garrett says:

    Wear them all the times you’re allowed! They look cool.

  5. Diane says:

    Wasn’t the biretta worn outside of Mass, in public? Or was that just the Hollywood thing? :D

  6. Dan says:

    My priest wears on in the winter hearing confessions. I guess it can get cold in the confessional.

  7. Nick says:

    The zucchetto, regardless of color, was worn to cover the clerical tonsure which has gone by the wayside except in a few monastic congregations. Forget about the zucchetto and bring back the tonsure. That should remind clergy to act like clergy.

  8. A priest could wear it while out and about, under his saturno, if he likes.

  9. Ben says:

    I went on a pilgramage to isreal and our priest that went with us wore a black zucchetto the entire time. He said it was the proper color for priests and that he felt it added a sense of unity with our Jewish brothers.

  10. Random says:

    I live at a Benedictine monastery and our abbot wears a black zucchetto when he pontificates.

  11. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    The black calotte is nevertheless a proper part of a priest’s secular costume and should be worn outside Mass and Office, with the cassock. No need today for the black clericals, only instituted in the U.S.A. to defend our priests (after 1884) from Protestant and no-nothing attacks. Priests in Quebec wore cassock and calotte in rural areas on the street–right through to the Age of Aquarius.

    I’ve heard that a certain F.S.S.P. priest wears the black calotte regularly. It can be worn liturgically by those having a special indult for it. I rather doubt that there are many of those floating around today.


  12. Adrian K says:

    A priest in a neighbouring parish to mine in the south of England wears a black zuchetto for the Sunday Mass. He wears it like a bishop does, removing it(if I recall correctly) from the Sanctus until after Holy Communion. Although I have visited the parish a few times I don’t know the priest to talk to and have thought it might be impolite for me to point out that priests shouldn’t wear the zuchetto during the liturgy. He seems to be a pretty good priest.

  13. Your Reverence:

    Are bishop-designates really allowed any episcopal regalia before their
    episcopal ordination? Just a thought… [Yes, they may begin to wear the zucchetto right away.]


  14. Philip-Michael says:

    I can attest, as I am one who wears it, that among the Anglophone population of Roman Priests and Seminarians in the city of Rome that the zucchetto has been having a bit of a revival for the past two years or so. It hasn’t caught on wildfire but it is there. As I say, I can attest as I am one of those I speak of. I do not know of a priest wearing the zucchetto liturgically. I always thought a priest left the zucchetto in the sacristy and only a bishop (possibly an abbot) was allowed the privilege of wearing the zucchetto during the liturgy. Now that does not however forbid a cleric from wearing the zucchetto in chapel or during other functions in the Church, e.g. the Rosary. I would also like to say that indeed its origins are in relationship to tonsure and some may argue that since one is no longer tonsured (with few exceptions) one lacks the privilege to wear the zucchetto. I would argue along the lines of a hermeneutic of continuity that since candidacy replaced tonsure (at least on the large scale) all those who have at least received candidacy at which time you “promise” to take on the life of a cleric, seriously working, studying, developing the virtues/evangelical counsels and praying toward that end, such should be maintained. After all one of the significances of a zucchetto is that that person has embarked upon the life of celibacy.

    Either way, whatever you may agree with or disagree with doesn’t really matter. Three Cheers for the Zucchetto and I will still be wearing mine, whatever you may think!

  15. ssoldie says:

    Loved the comment Fr. Z,way to go.

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