The skull cap19 Sep 2016, by Sacraments in
About a week ago, I shared a post titled symbols of the office of the Catholic bishop. And one of my readers observed that something was missing; it was the small round fitting cap worn by the Catholic bishops. She put a call to ask what the cap is called and any other thing I could say about it.
That small round fitting cap is called a skull cap, the Jews wear something very similar to it, but I am not sure why they use it. In Catholicism, however, there is a history behind it. It dates back to when clerics were tonsured; yes, there was a time when those admitted into the monastery or the clerical and celibate state were shaved. They had a ring kind of hair cut; maybe you would have observed that most of the images of the early fathers of the Church showed this ring hair cut. Many of them were old and needed to cover the head’s shaved part to retain body heat; that was the beginning of the skull cap (Zucchetto).
The skull cap gradually became a symbol of hierarchy, probably when younger men began to be admitted into the monasteries and the clerical state.
The skull cap is no longer used to retain body heat, neither are clergy tonsured today. However, the skull cap continues to be used in the Church just as lighted candles are not needed to proclaim the gospel, yet they are lighted anyway. As the lighted candles are spiritualized to reflect Christ the light, the skull cap could be seen as a reminder to the Church’s hierarchy to keep the Church warm and alive.
The bishops and the cardinals wear red skull cap while the pope wears white. The skull cap is part of the bishop’s regalia.