Ch 02 The Growth of Feudalism

Chapter 2 Additions -Tonsure

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Roman tonsure

Tonsure is the practice of some Christian churches, mystics, Buddhist novices and monks, and some Hindu temples of cutting the hair from the scalp of clerics, devotees, or holy people as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem.



The origin of the tonsure remains unclear, but it certainly was not widely known in antiquity.

\There were three forms of tonsure known in the 7th and 8th centuries:

·                                 The Oriental, which claimed the authority of Saint Paul the Apostle (Acts 18:18) and consisted of shaving the whole head.

·                                 This was observed in the Eastern churches, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches.

·                                 Hence Theodore of Tarsus, who had acquired his learning in Byzantine Asia Minor and bore this tonsure, had to allow his hair to grow for four months before he could be tonsured after the Roman fashion, and then ordained Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Vitalian in 668.

·                                 The Celtic, the exact shape of which is unclear from the sources, but in some way involved shaving the head from ear to ear.[1]

·                                 The shape may have been semicircular, arcing forward from a line between the ears, but another popular suggestion, less borne out in the sources, proposes that the entire forehead was shaved back to the ears.[2]


·                                 More recently a triangular shape, with one point at the front of the head going back to a line between the ears, has been suggested.[1]


·                                 The Celtic tonsure was worn in Ireland and Great Britain and was connected to the distinct set of practices known as Celtic Christianity.[3]


·                                 It was greatly despised by those affiliated with the Roman custom, who considered it unorthodox and associated it with the heretic Simon Magus.[4]


·                                 The Roman: this consisted of shaving only the top of the head, so as to allow the hair to grow in the form of a crown.


·                                 This is claimed to have originated with Saint Peter, and is the practice of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. While not required, it is still a common practice of Roman Rite Friars, such as the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word.

These claimed origins are possibly unhistorical; the earliest history of the tonsure is lost in obscurity.

This practice is not improbably connected with the idea that long hair is the mark of a freeman, while the shaven head marks the slave (in the religious sense: a servant of God).

Other theories are that the tonsure mimics male pattern baldness in an attempt to lend artificial respectability to men too young to display the real thing[, or that the tonsure is a ritual created by balding superiors in act of vanity and power over young non-bald subordinates

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 April 2011 04:07  

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