Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Episcopal Headwear

Just as the biretta is worn in the Latin Church and the kamilavkion in the Greek Church, so too, do the Oriental Churches have distinct clerical headwear. Today, we're looking at non-liturgical headwear for bishops.

The reader will notice in the following photos that many of those of Middle Eastern origin are  rather similar, yet remain quite distinct. Both the similarity and distinction come from the dress codes imposed by the Arab and Ottoman overlords. The Arabs and Ottomans maintained a rule that each sect's clerical clothing had to have its own distinguishing characteristics. Hence we have the slight variations among the Maronite tobiyye, Syriac Orthodox koub'ono, Coptic Orthodox 'emmeh, Assyrian Church of the East kosita, and the Chaldean shash. In regard to the shash, it's very much a shame that the current Catholicos-Patriarch, Mar Louis-Raphael, refuses to wear it. 


Both the Syriac Catholic Church and Coptic Catholic Church each have slightly different variations of the Greek kamilavkion, the Syriacs without a veil, and the Copts with a veil. In keeping with the imposed Ottoman rules, neither is identical to the Greek style. The adoption of a variant of the Greek kamilavkion, rather than a variant of either the koub'ono or 'emmeh, appears to have come about along with their union with Rome.  

It's interesting to note that the only ones who seem to have escaped the Ottoman restrictions were the Melkites, and it's likely that the historical circumstances of their own union with Rome explain why. 

The churches in India were, of course, never affected by the Ottomans, but the Syro-Malabar Church was for some 400 years directly affected by Rome. For many years, the Latin biretta was used in the Syro-Malabar Church, but recently, under the guidance of Major-Archbishop Mar George Allencherry, things have changed a bit. While it's still essentially a biretta, at least it's now of a uniquely Syro-Malabar style. The Syro-Malankara hold the distinction of being the only Oriental Church in union with Rome to have maintained the same episcopal headwear as their Orthodox brethren.

 Chaldean Patriarch-emeritus Mar Emmanuel III in black shash

 Chaldean Patriarch-emeritus Mar Emmanuel III in red shash

Maronite Patriarch-Emeritus Mor Nasrallah in black tobiyye

Maronite Patriarch Mor Bichara in red tobiyye

Assyrian Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV in red-topped kosita

Syro-Malabar Major-Archbishop Mar George in red Syro-Malabar biretta

Late Syro-Malabar Major-Archishop Mar Varkey Vithayathil in red Latin biretta

Syro-Malankara Catholicos Mor Basilios Cleemis in black koub'ono

Syro-Malankara Castholicos Mor Basilios Cleemis in red-topped koub'ono

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatios Yowsef III in kamilavkion (without veil)

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatios Zakka I in black koub'ono

Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawdros II in black 'emmeh

Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak in kamilavkion (with veil)


  1. Interesting that both the Syriac Catholic and Coptic Catholic patriarchs both wear the Byzantine kamilavkion and have goatees. Is the goatee a Byzantine thing :P?

    "the current Catholicos-Patriarch, Mar Louis-Raphael, refuses to wear it." much like the holy father pope Francis it seems that they feels it is a sign of humility, but would not true humility be to forget oneself in place of century old traditions, that the title and position is not about that one person but about the office itself?

    Aloho nbarekh lkhoon

  2. I am wondering where I might buy a koub'ono to join the religious headwear exhibit that has the white zuccheto of Pope Benedetto among others? Thank you, Chris Hull