ASK FATHER: Can a priest wear a black zucchetto?

From a reader…


I was wondering if priests are permitted to wear a black zucchetto nowadays and which types of priests can wear them or used to wear them prior to Vatican II? And if so, when does a priest wear a zucchetto on his head?

“On his head….” Where else would he wear it?

Yes, a priest may wear a black zucchetto.   However, this is not, for a priest, a liturgical item.  He would not wear it when saying Mass or when in choro.   We use the biretta.

A zucchetto is useful for keeping one’s bald spot warm.  That’s about it.

BTW… sometimes this gizmo is called a “solideo”. That’s Latin… soli Deo, since they are removed at the Holy Name and for the Blessed Sacrament. And sometimes, in some places, they had a pom on them.

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  1. CradleRevert says:

    Does the zucchetto signify anything in particular? Whether required or not, it appears that it is at least common practice for bishops, cardinals and pontiffs to wear them. Is there a reason for this?

  2. jeffc says:

    I cannot find the rules for this anywhere, but Benedictine Abbots can wear a black zuchetto as a liturgical item. Abbot James of St. Benedict’s Abbey wears one regularly. Prior to Vatican II, this was a common practice for Abbots.

  3. MAJ Tony says:

    Archabbot Justin DuVall, OSB of St. Meinrad Archabbey wore one at my home church, St. Rupert in the Dio. of Evansville, IN (no longer a sui juris parish) when we had our 150th anniversary of it’s founding this August. The first abbot, Bp. Martin Marty, Apostle to the Sioux (Apostolic Vicar of Dakota before it was split into ND and SD), first bishop of Sioux Falls, SD (so named on THIS DAY, Nov 12, 1889), and second bishop of St. Cloud, MN, was our first pastor.

    NB: Here’s a good book about Bp. Marty, btw. I own a copy. Worth the read.

  4. oldconvert says:

    Many years ago I knew a priest who had been a chaplain during World War II and had received a head wound resulting in a metal plate in his skull. He wore a (black) zuchetto to cover it as he was a bit self-conscious about it.

  5. tgarcia2 says:

    Franciscan Friars can wear brown. Yes, I looked at wikipedia HOWEVER, they had this nifty source

    McButt, Henry (1948), Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company

  6. jlmorrell says:

    “A zuchetto is useful for keeping one’s bald spot warm. That’s about it.”

    No! A liberal couldn’t have said it better, but just as easily could refer to the cassock, saturno, biretta, cape, or any other priestly garb. We need everything that contributes to Catholic identity, including priestly identity. If the zuchetto contributes to a proper priestly identity, which I think it can, then it should be encouraged.

  7. jlmorrell: Nope. The zucchetto is, for a priest, a head warmer. The black zucchetto was mostly associated with religious, with their large tonsures and with canons. I don’t think it was ever prescribed. Also, it was more popular in some countries than others. I believe you might have seen it in the Spain of yesteryear more than in other places. On the other hand, the cassock is actually priestly garb, enshrined for a long while now in both custom and legislation. It still is, as a matter of fact. The Directory for Priests still lists it in the first place for what priests ought to wear. The biretta is proper priestly garb for choir dress. It was required for celebration of Mass. The saturno was required for street dress in Rome and it is identified easily with the cleric. The cape is a vague term. Roman seminarians used the soprana as street garb, as also the ferraiuolo and ferraioletto. A cappa is used in graveyards in the winter, and so it is warming. I don’t think that the black zucchetto does much to promote priestly identity… not as the other items do.

  8. jhayes says:

    The saturno was required for street dress in Rome and it is identified easily with the cleric

    Is there anyone here who lived in England in the 1950s who remembers if Parish Priests wore the saturno then? As Fr. Brown does in the TV series.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    Looking up some of the priestly garb terms above, I came across this site which has among other things, a picture of Angelo Roncalli the future Pope St . John XXIII wearing a soprana over his cassock. It’s sad the way that much of this has fallen by the wayside:

  10. Sonshine135 says:

    Forget the zucchetto. Bring back the Papal Tiara!

  11. Matt Robare says:

    If you are a bearded priest and your beard goes below your collar, avoid the zuccheto. It will just be ackward when people mistake you for a rabbi.

  12. oklip955 says:

    Yes bring back the papal Tiara and the fans. Pray that the next pope will be very traditional.

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