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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/647

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BIRETTA


577


BIRETTA


blood out of its owne bodye to do others good" (Lyly, Euphues). Allusion is made to this belief in "Hanilet" (act iv): —

To his good friend thus wide I'll ope my arms -And, like the kind, life-rendering pelican, Repast them with my blood. Therefore it was deemed a fitting symbol of the Sa- viour, the Jiostro pelicano of Dante, Who shed His blood in order to give eternal life to the children of men. Skelton in his Armorie of Birds" says: — Then sayd the PeUycan: Wlien my BjTdts be slajTie With my blonde I them revyve. Scripture doth record The same dyd our Lord And rose from deth to Ij-ve. The Pha-nix is a sjnnbol of the Resurrection and of eternity. According to legend this mythical bird could never die; on attaining its five-hundredth year it committed itself to the flames of a funeral pjTe, only to rise reborn from its own ashes. Dante used it as a symbol of the souls of the damned (Inf., xxiv, 197-208).

The Peacock in Byzantine and early Romanesque art was used to signify the Resurrection, because its flesh was thought to be incorruptible. (St. Augus- tine, City of God, xxi, e, iv.) It was also a s\TnboI of pride. The Raven is a sjmibol of the Jews, of confession and penance. The Cock is a s>^ubol of vigilance, and also an emblem of St. Peter. The Vulture has always tj-pified greed. Many other birds were used during the Middle Ages for symbolic and ecclesiological purposes; while the preachers of these centuries developed the sjinbolism of each one of these emblems to a degree that now seems far-fetched and often, obscure, nevertheless, they made it clear that religious instruction can be gained from birds and even from the common things of life.

L.vucHERT. Geschichte des Physiologus (Strasburg, 1SS9): Cahieh, Melanges d'archeol. (Paris, 1847-56); Ne.vl and Webb, The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments (New York. 1896); Didron, Christian Iconography (Loudon, 1851): Evans. Animal Symbolism m Ecclesiastical Architecture (London, 1896); Viollet^Le-Duc, Dictionnaire raisonnr de V architecture fran(aise du Xl" au AT/' siMe (Paris, 1853).

Caryl Colem.in.

Biretta, a square cap with three ridges or peaks on its upper surface, now commonly worn by clerics of all grades from cardinals downwards. The use of such a cap is prescribed by the rubrics both at solemn Mass and in other ecclesiastical functions. Etymologically, the word biretta is Italian in origin and would more correctly be written beretta (cf. how- ever the French barette and the Spanish bireta). It probably comes from birrus, a rough cloak with a hood, from the Greek irvppds, flame-coloured, and the birretum may originally have meant the hood. We hear of the birettum in the tenth century, but, hke most other questions of costume, the history is e.xtremely perplexed. The wearing of any head- covering, other than hood or cowl, on state occasions within doors seeras to have originally been a dis- tinction reserved for the privileged few. The con- stitutions of Cardinal Ottoboni issued by him for England in 1268 forbid the wearing of caps ^'ulgarly called "coypha; (cf. the coif of the serjeant-at-law) to clerics, except when on journeys. In church and when in the presence of their superiors their heads are to remain uncovered. From this law the higher graduates of the universities were excepted, thus Giovanni d'.^ndrea, in his gloss on the Clementine Decretals, declares (c. 1320) that at Bologna the insignia of the Doctorate were the cathedra (chair) and the birettum.

.A.t first the birettum was a kind of skull cap with a small tuft, but it developed into a soft round cap easily indented by the fingers in putting it on and off, and it acquired in this way the rudimentary


outline of its present three peaks. We may nuJ such a cap delmeated in many drawings of the fif- teenth century, one of which, representing university dignitaries at the Council of Constance, who are described in the accompanjing text as birrectati, is here reproduced.


The same kind of cap is worn by the cardinals sit- ting in conclave and depicted in the same contem- porary series of drawings, as also by preachers ad- dressing the as- sembly. The privilege of wear- ing some such head-dress was extended in the course of the six- teenth c e n t u ry to the lower grades of the cler- gj-, and after a wliile the chief distinction be- came one of col- our, the cardinals always wearing red birettas, and bishops violet. The shape dur- ing the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries siderably modified, and, very complicated, there to reject the


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ONTMENT Representing Doctor OF Laws wearing Biretta. a.d. 1352


was even,T\here con- though the question is seems no good reason identification, proposed by several modern wTiters, of the old doctor's birettum mth the square college cap, popularly known as the "mortar-board", of the modern English universities. The college cap and ecclesiasti- cal biretta have probably devel- oped from the same original, but along dif- ferent lines. Even at the present day b i r e t f as vary con.siderably in shape. Those worn by the French, Ger- man, and Span- ish clergy as a rule have four peaks instead of three; while Roman custom prescribes that a cardinal's bi- retta should have no tassel. As regards us- age in wearing the biretta, the reader must be referred for details to some of the works mentioned in the bibliography. It may be said in general that the biretta is worn in processions and when seated, as also when the priest is performing any act of jurisdic- tion, e. g. reconciling a convert. It was formerly the rule that a priest should always wear it in giv- ing ab-solution in confession, and it is probable that the ancient usage which requires an EngUsh judgu