Biretta Watch – Snowy Day

biretta5Anyone who has read my 100 things knows that I wear a biretta when it is snowy. People sometimes ask me why. I tell them that it is to keep my head warm. This makes them laugh though I find it hard to understand why. People sometimes ask me whether I know how ridiculous it makes me look. I reply that I do, but am conscious of how much more ridiculous any other hat would look on top of a priest in vestments and ask whether they had thought of that. The answer is usually more hilarity.

I’m fairly sure that I have not given more pleasure to the world this year, than by the simple act of donning that hat on Sunday morning to welcome the faithful. Certainly, members of the choir, which included the young trebles this week, were particulary thrilled to see it.

There is now some debate about what colour my pom-pom should be going on on facebook. Magisterial Purple vs Canon’s Red are the two liturgical options, but I was taken by the suggestion that I should sport a white pom, to represent the snow.

Biretta wearing (in snow or in sunshine) does seem to me to be an inherrantly missional part of the clerical task. It binds the community and draws people ever closer in.


Further Biretta coverage here, here and here.


  1. Glad to hear you are keeping up the tradition of biretta wearing during the snow. Few women do birettas, of course, because of hat hair. I do remember a certain priest who sported a rainbow pom-pom. It certainly was cheery.

  2. Elizabeth says

    What about a beret? That might work with vestments.

  3. The proper alternatives would, of course, be either the ‘Cranmer’ cap or the ‘mortar board’. Dr Dearmer was very amusing, as always on this subject:

    The Cap, the ‘square cap’ of Canon 74, has gone through several modifications: once of the comely shape that we see in the portraits of Cranmer, Fox, and others, it developed in the seventeenth century into the form familiar in portraits of Laud and his contemporaries (of limp material, with a tuft on the top), and then into the college cap in England, and abroad into the less comely biretta. There is no conceivable reason for English Churchmen to discard their own shape in favour of a foreign one; the use of the biretta offends an immense number of excellent lay folk, and thus makes the recovery of the Church more difficult. An English priest has no more right to adopt the distinctive head-dress of the clergy of other countries than an English colonel has to wear the helmet of a German officer.

    “No popery!” is what I say…ahem…

  4. Kelvin says

    I’m not sure that the category of English Churchman is one with which I am entirely comfortable.

    However, I would be anxious to try on a scarlet Canterbury Cap should I ever encounter one.

    A mere tuft seems so much less true to the gospel that we profess than a full pom-pom.

  5. Fr Dougal says

    Ah now, the Rainbow pom-pom! I’d forgotten that, Madre! Proclaiming that we are an inclusive church even when we look like wallies! sounds good to me!

  6. Kelvin says

    Fr Dougal, bless you, but I fear that if you think that it is merely the changing of the colour of the pom-pom on a biretta to rainbow hues that makes a priest look a wally, a reality check may be in order.

    Meanwhile, I’m reading up on the cappello romano and mulling over the options.

  7. Fr Dougal says

    Oh, I know we look like wallies every Sunday! I’m very good at that – the lace alb with 15 inch trim being a case in point!

  8. Fr Dougal says

    The capello romano looks too flying saucer-ish. In the Russian Church, Archpriests get a red or purple kamilavka – would that do?

  9. Kelvin says

    I’m not inclined to lace myself.

    The idea of a red or purple kamilavka would certainly add a something to the Great Western Road experience on a snowy sabbath morn.

    The trouble with the idea of a capello romano is that if I were to take to it in Canon’s Red, it might be mistaken for a red Galero and I think that might be misunderstood.

  10. David Allen |dah•veed| says

    Perhaps you would be interested in the sense of majesty which undoubtedly accompanies the wearing of the Spanish Biretta. However, the Canon Red edition would perhaps have playing card companies seeking your photo for one of their card faces.

  11. Hats are old hat. What you really need is a papal ombrellino to keep the snow off! Then you could wear a wooly hat under it which no one would notice because they’d all be so impressed by what you were carrying. Or maybe what the server was carrying for you.

  12. Don’t think for a moment, Lay Clerk, that I have not used such a liturgical essential whilst worshipping the Lord in Scotland.

    I most certainly have, though not to keep the snow off.

  13. Heaven forfend that I would even consider for a fleeting moment that you had not taken advantage of the full panoply of liturgical sex-aids available!

  14. David |Dah • veed| says

    I am sure that the proper term Lay Clerk is paraments!

  15. I do like the biretta when traveling…will be wearing one this weekend in the St. Patrick’s day parade. Just a thought, maybe you should change the name of the site to “What’s on Kelvin’s Head.” Just a thought.

  16. Have been trying desperately to find a Canterbury Cap these last few weeks. Seems no-one makes or sells them anymore!
    A shame, as my former parish was the home of Lancelot Andrewes and they are celebrating his contribution to the translation of the KJB during a Festival Weekend, 24/25 September. I so wanted to wear a hat more in sympathy with the 17th century!
    I shall either default to a skullcap or a biretta, I guess….

  17. Rosemary Hannah says

    Some academic head gear (doctoral level) is based on the Canterbury Cap – try academic outfitters.

  18. Kennedy says

    I think I saw +Idris sporting one at the TISEC award ceremony.

    Maybe he’ll know where to get one.

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