The zucchetto (plural zucchetti, Italian for "small gourd"), also called pileolus in Latin, is a small skullcap worn by clerics of the Roman Catholic Church and within Anglicanism and Lutheranism. It was first adopted for practical reasons — to keep the clergy's tonsured heads warm in cold, damp churches — and has survived as a traditional item of dress. It consists of eight panels sewn together, with a stem at the top. Its name may derive from its resemblance to half of a pumpkin, or from the fact that it covers a larger "pumpkin" (i.e., the head). Its appearance is almost identical to the Jewish Kippah, though its significance is quite different.
All ordained members of the Roman Catholic Church are entitled to wear the zucchetto. As with much ecclesiastical apparel, the colour of the zucchetto denotes the wearer's rank: the Pope's zucchetto is white, those worn by cardinals are red or scarlet, and those of bishops, territorial abbots and territorial prelates are purple. Priests and deacons wear a black zucchetto although the use of the zucchetto by priests in actual practice is extremely rare aside from abbots, and the custom is even rarer among deacons. A black zucchetto with red piping was formerly the mark of a protonotary apostolic or canon, but this is no longer authorized. A white zucchetto is worn by Premonstratensian prelates. A brown zucchetto-like garment and similar black skullcap is sometimes worn by Franciscan friars and Benedictine or Trappist monks respectively, but this is usually a more substantial cap used for actual head-warming rather than as a ceremonial accoutrement.
All clerics who hold the episcopal character (that is to say, bishops — whether the Pope, cardinals, titular bishops or diocesan bishops) wear the zucchetto throughout most of the Mass, removing it at the commencement of the Canon and replacing it at the conclusion of the Communion. A short stand placed on the altar, usually made of brass or wood and known as a funghellino is used in some churches to hold the zuchetto during that part of the service. No other people are permitted to wear the zucchetto at Mass. Also, the zucchetto continues to be worn while the mitre is being worn; it is placed inside it (a mitre is bottomless, so the zuchetto sits on the head while the mitre is around it).
The late Pope John Paul II often gave guests the zucchetto he was wearing as a keepsake if presented with a new one as a gift. Other recent popes have also held the same practice. If visiting the pope, one may wish to speak with his secretary beforehand about the practice, and confirm that the new zucchetto is the correct size and is otherwise appropriate.
The zucchetto is worn by some Anglican bishops, mostly in Africa, but is used according to the same practice as that of the Roman Catholic Church. A recent example of this is the zucchetto worn by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
- Philippi, Dieter (2009). Sammlung Philippi - Kopfbedeckungen in Glaube, Religion und Spiritualität,. St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig. ISBN 978-3-7462-2800-6.
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