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Tonsure (Lat. tondeo, “shave, shear”) is the cutting of the hair as a sign of penitence, grief, or subjection. It occurs both before Christianity and outside it. Monks (Monasticism) are characterized by tonsure, as were secular priests3) and other clergy. The ceremony of tonsure became part of admission to the clergy under Gregory the Great (590–604; Clergy and Laity). During the High Middle Ages the different styles of tonsure for monks and clergy became interchangeable.

In the Roman Catholic Church candidates for the clergy (bishops, priests, deacons) no longer have to…

Cite this page
Schnitker, Thaddeus A., “Tonsure”, in: Encyclopedia of Christianity Online. Consulted online on 27 January 2022 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2211-2685_eco_T.62>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004169678, 20080512

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