What’s the hat called?

By Chicago Catholic
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

(Photo illustration by Karen Callaway)

At the time of ordination, every bishop is given symbols of his ministry that he will use during liturgical functions and other events. Catholics see bishops with these symbols all the time but might not know what they are. Here, Chicago Catholic explains their meanings.

A. Crosier: (KRO-zher) Pastoral staff, modeled on a shepherd’s crook, conferred upon bishops and abbots at their installations as a sign of their pastoral care of souls.

B. Zucchetto: (zoo-KEH-to) Derived from the popular Italian idiom “zucca” (“pumpkin”), used as slang for “head,” the zuchetto is a small skullcap worn by ecclesiastics, especially prelates. The Holy Father wears a white zucchetto made of watered silk. Cardinals use scarlet and bishops use purple. Priests of the monsignorial rank may wear black with purple piping. All others may wear simple black, including abbots who are not bishops.

C. Miter or Mitre: (MAI-ter) The liturgical headdress proper to all bishops of the Latin Rite, including the pope. It consists of two flaps, front and back, equal in size, and joined at the bottom by a headband; the flaps curve to a point at the top. A soft material joins these two flaps together, allowing for it to be folded when not in use. The miter as we know it did not appear until the middle of the 10th century. At that time, the miter was worn only by the pope at solemn liturgical functions. Antecedents of the miter were probably the headdress of the high priest of the Temple of Jerusalem and the head covering worn by important officials in the Roman Empire. By the 12th century, it became the custom for bishops to wear the miter. Later, others besides the pope and bishops wore a miter. Today, its use is limited for the most part to bishops and abbots.

D. Bishop’s ring: The first insignia to be received by the bishop during the rite of ordination is the ring. The ring symbolizes two things. First, it is a sign of discretion, because rings were used to seal private documents. Second, the ring is a sign of the conjugal nature of the relationship between the bishop and the church. It represents the symbolic marriage between the bishop and the church. (Source:

E. Pectoral cross: (PEHK-ter-uhl KRAWS) (From Latin “pectus,” or “breast”) A cross made of precious metal (sometimes decorated with jewels) suspended by a chain around the neck, worn over the chest by abbots, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the pope. It is worn by prelates regardless of their attire, whether liturgical or not.

Definitions from Catholic Dictionary, Rev. Peter M.J. Stavinskas, PhD, STD, Our Sunday Visitor. Thank you to Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry for allowing Chicago Catholic to photograph his items for this illustration.




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