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Decently habited, CXXXII

December 13, 2013

The reverend gentleman below, in his Canterbury cap.


The Canterbury cap developed in the fifteenth century and is modeled upon the pileus (known in democratic iconography as the “liberty cap”). On its history and wear, Dearmer writes:

The Cap, or ‘square cap,’ may have had its origin in the almuce. For the almuce was originally used to cover the head, and when it ceased to fulfil that function the cap seems to have been introduced. It has gone through several modifications: once of the comely shape that we see in the portraits of Bishop Foxe and others, it developed in the seventeenth century into the form sometimes called the Canterbury cap (of limp material, with a tuft on the top), and then into the still beautiful college-cap in England, and abroad into the positively ugly biretta. There is no conceivable reason for English churchmen to discard their own shape in favour of a foreign one…. The Canterbury cap is on the other hand distinctively ecclesiastical as well as English; its shape seems now to be tending to the more compact older form; and, as our superiors have largely adopted it, there are good reasons for the parson to wear it with his cassock and for outdoor processions.1

We would add that, in winter, it makes fine outdoor headgear for clergy in the frozen provinces.

Archbishop Laud wears his.

Archbishop Laud wears his.

1. Percy Dearmer, The Parson’s Handbook (London: Grant Richards, 1899), 87.


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