January 31, 2011

The Mitre of the Papal Coat of Arms

On the coat of arms of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. the tiara was replaced by a mitre with 3 stripes.

About the mitre in the coat of arms (Source: Coat of Arms of His Holiness Benedict VI.):

"The Supreme Pontiff's arms have featured a "tiara" since ancient times. At the beginning this was a sort of closed "tocque". In 1130 a crown was added, symbol of the Church's sovereignty over the States.
Boniface VIII, in 1301, added a second crown, at the time of the confrontation with Philip the Fair, King of France, to show that his spiritual authority was superior to any civic authority.

It was Benedict XII in 1342 who added a third crown to symbolize the Pope's moral authority over all secular monarchs, and reaffirmed the possession of Avignon.

With time, although it lost its temporal meaning, the silver tiara with three gold crowns came to represent the three powers of the Supreme Pontiff: Sacred Orders, Jurisdiction and Magisterium.

In past centuries, Popes wore the tiara at solemn official celebrations and especially on the day of the "coronation" at the beginning of their Pontificate. Paul VI used for this purpose a precious tiara which the Archdiocese of Milan had presented to him, just as it had given one to Pius XI; but afterwards, Paul VI donated it to a charity and introduced the current use of a simple "mitre", although these mitres were sometimes embellished with ornaments or gems. But he left the "tiara" and the crossed keys as the emblem of the Apostolic See.

Today, the ceremony that begins a Pontificate is no longer called a "coronation". The Pope's full jurisdiction begins the moment he accepts his election by the Cardinals in the Conclave and not with coronation as for secular monarchs. This ceremony, therefore, is simply called the solemn inauguration of his Petrine Ministry, as it was for Benedict XVI on 24 April.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI decided not to include the tiara in his official personal coat of arms. He replaced it with a simple mitre which is not, therefore, surmounted by a small globe and cross as was the tiara.

The Papal mitre shown in his arms, to recall the symbolism of the tiara, is silver and bears three bands of gold (the three powers: Orders, Jurisdiction and Magisterium), joined at the centre to show their unity in the same person."

After my knowledge, at this time there exists only one real mitre made exactly according to the mitre of the coat of arms of
H.H. Pope Benedict XVI.:

You can read some critical comments from the point of correct heraldry about the mitre used in the new coat of arms of the Holy Father from Mr Maurizio Bettoja, member of the Società Italiana di Studi Araldici (S.I.S.A.) (unfortunately only in Italian language):

Lo stemma di Benedetto XVI di Maurizio Bettoja

Uno stemma assurdo di Maurizio Bettoja

In the above articles the mitre is described as "mitria zebrata" (for the mitre is looking similar to the tripes on the skin of a zebra).

In his letter to the editor of the German newspaper Die Tagespost dated 24th of May 2005, page 16, Mr Stephan Uano discribes this mitre as "Mitriara" (new creation of the words "mitre" and "tiara").

January 20, 2011

The Qob - Headgear of the Clergy of the Ethiopian Catholic Church

"The Qob - The Ethiopian biretta"
In Ethiopian Ge'ez

His Excellency 
Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M.
Archbishop of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
wearing a red-purple (fuchsia, amaranth, church violet, paonazzo) Qob

His Excellency 
Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M.
Archbishop of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
wearing a black Qob

Rt. Rev. Msgr. Abraham Desta
Vicar Apostolic of Meki
wearing a red-purple (fuchsia, amaranth, church violet, paonazzo) Qob

His Eminence Paulos Cardinal Tzadua
Archbishop Emeritus of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
(* 25th of August 1921; † 11th of December 2003)
wearing a red Qob

The white :
I do not know which dignitary is wearing the white color?

all 4 colors
Click on the picture to get a closer view

January 18, 2011

The Polish Academic Biret and the Biret of the Dean

The Silesian University of Technology
Politechnika Śląska,Gliwice, Poland
The "birety akademickie" and "birety dziekańskie" in Poland has no wings (horns, blades)
and no pompon.

Karol Józef Kardinal Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II., wearing a "biret dziekański"

January 17, 2011

The Spanish Academical Birrete

4th of January 2011
Plácido Domingo received a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio
He received a white birrete with a blue pompon on top standing for Art and Literature.
Click to enlarge the picture and see the other colors of
the birrete, too.

31st of January 1998 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger receives the Doctor of Honoris Causa from the theological faculty of the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.
He received the white birrete with a white pompon (Bella Arte)

A film of the ceremony in Spanish language from Aitor Agirregabiria and Javier Martínez dated 8th of July 2007 with the title "El Cardenal Ratzinger en la Universidad de Navarra: Escenas de la ceremonia del nombramiento como Doctor Honoris Causa por la Facultad de Teología de dicha Universidad. Entrevista que concedió en la Clínica Universitaria de la Universidad de Navarra" can be found in the internet.

Professor Ole Fanger receives the Doctor of Honoris Causa of
the Universidade de Coimbra on 14th of June 2001.
The borla is the academic headgear of the Portuguese universities.
The borla is much more opulent and magnificent than the Spanish birrete.
The name of the cape is "capelo".

© pictures: Virtula Memories
"Borla doutoral" of the "Faculdade de Teologia", Universidade de Coimbra
To buy such a borla, you can contact:
CARVALHO & IRMÃO, LDA, Porto, Portugal

January 15, 2011

Red Purple verus Blue Purple

For a German the English names for some colors are confusing.

The colors "violett" and "lila" in English are purple or blue-purple.

The color "purpur" in English is violet or red-purple.

For the color worn by Roman Catholic Bishops I found a lot of different names used in English literature:

Amaranth  -  Fuchsia  -  Red Purple  -  Church Violet  -  Paonazzo  -  Violet  -  Violetus
Purpura violetus  -  Purpura amarantus

Color used by the Anglican Bishops are discribed as:

Blue Purple  -  Purpura  -  Deep purple  -  Church purple

Have a look as well at this color chart of J. Wippell and Company Limited, Exeter, Great Britain.

January 14, 2011

Kippa versus Pileolus

A questions often asked:
"What is the difference between the jewish kippa (yarmulke) and the catholic pileolus (soli deo, zucchetto)?"
> The number of panels (segments) they are made of and the stem (seldom a button) on the top.

Roman Catholic priests wearing a pileolus (soli deo, zucchetto) with 8 panels (segments)
and a little stem (2-3 cm) on the top

Pileolus (soli deo, zucchetto) of Roman Catholic cardinal with 8 panels (segments)
and a little stem (2-3 cm) on the top

Roman Catholic priests wearing as well pileoli (soli deo, zucchetto) with 6 panels (segments)
and a little button; this one is from a Polish priest

A Jewish kippa (yarmulke) with 4 panels (segments) and no stem on the top

The phiro of the Syriac Orthodox clergy
Please direct your attention to the 7 panels (segments),
indicating the full priesthood of the celebrant
(click on the picture to get a closer view)

January 10, 2011

Phiro d'Kohnutho - The Skull Cap of the Syrian Priesthood

Please direct you attention to the 7 panels (segments),
indicating the full priesthood of the celebrant
(click on the picture to get a closer view)

Phiro d’Kohnutho - THE FRUIT OF PRIESTHOOD - The Skull Cap of the Syrian Priesthood
By Kuriakos Tharakan Thottupuram, Ph.D., D.D.

My emphases and comments:

On many occasions I was asked about the significance of the skull cap worn by the priests of the Syrian [Orthodox] Church, both in the Middle East and in India. Recently there were some inquiries about it by our readers. Hence we are trying to educate our readers about the relevance of skull caps worn by our clergy.

In the Syrian [Orthodox] Church this skull cap is called Elbishto d’Kurobo, the cap for offering the sacrifice, and it is also called Phiro d’Kohnutho, the Fruit of Priesthood (one may find different spellings for these terms in other publications).

Clergy of other churches also wear the same or similar caps or skull caps during their liturgical functions. But all these practices share the same traditions.

Jewish Practice 

It was the ancient Jewish practice that men should cover their heads during prayers and ceremonial occasions. It was customary for women to cover their heads always. But men were required to wear head-covering during prayers. This custom is still observed by Jewish men on Saturdays and on feast days. However, the priests and rabbis during the period of the Old Testament covered their heads not only during prayers and religious services, but also at other times when they appeared in public.

There was a good reason for doing so. As we know the Jews were even scared of pronouncing the name of God. Even now the Orthodox Jews do write the word ‘God’, without the vowel in it (G-d). They were afraid of the presence of God. Moreover, they also wanted to minimize the importance of their presence before God. So they covered their heads during religious services. The practice indicated one’s insignificance and nothingness before the Sovereign of the universe. During the time of Jesus, this custom was already in place, and in icons and pictures representing Christ and His apostles, we see head-coverings on them. Men and women usually covered their heads all the time because of the almost desert-like weather in the Middle East. We can also observe this practice among people of other religions. The large head-veil was later reduced to a manageable skull cap for the sake of convenience. In Hebrew this skull cap was called Kippah. Before and during the time Christ this skull cap was called Yerai Malka, which is an ancient Aramaic phrase, meaning the Fear of or Honor for the King. As everyone knows, during the few centuries before Christ, and during His period, the culture and the language of the Jewish people were Aramaic.

When Jews were scattered after the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army around AD 70, they took this practice to their Diasporas, including the Aramaic culture. Their men continued to wear Kippah. Among the Jewish people in Diaspora, there also developed an eclectic language called Yiddish, which takes its content and form from Hebrew, Aramaic, and the European language(s), mainly German. The Jews who spoke Yiddish coined a new term from Yerai Malka, and we thus have the word Yarmulke, pronounced Yah-mi-kuh.

Jews had been living in various parts of the Roman Empire long before the time of Christ for commercial reasons and they were the best businessmen like they are still now. When Jews were taken as captives after the siege of Jerusalem, their presence was more significantly notified. But the tragedy was that, after the collapse of the Jewish Jerusalem and the enslavement of Jews by the Romans across the Empire, they were just considered slaves within society. They lost the civil status as freemen after they lost Jerusalem. In the Roman Empire slaves were required to cover their heads, but freemen did not cover their heads. This situation forced the Jewish men to retain the habit of covering their heads even after they were in diaspora. Early Christians of Jewish origin maintained the same traditions and customs.

The Christian Origin of the Skull Cap

We have already explained that the Jewish priests and rabbis had been covering their heads during prayers and religious services. Christian priests and bishops also followed the same custom, because they considered themselves to be the ministers of a perfected Judaism, not as a separate religion. It was the same tradition of Jewish priests that the early Christian priests and bishops accepted when they celebrated the Eucharist, which is the mystical Paschal sacrifice of the New Covenant. Thus the black skull cap became a common headwear for Christian clergy as a continuation of the Jewish priestly practice. The Christian clergy continued this practice even after the separation of the Church from Judaism. [I do not know if this is correct? In the Catholic literature you often can read that the pileolus (soli deo, zucchetto) was worn due to the fact that in winter it was cold in the churches of the medival and for the priest and monks wore tonsure it was important to protect their heads against the cold and to avoid bad colds.]

This practice was not restricted to the Syrian Church alone. Priests of the Roman Church also used the skull cap. In some Roman Catholic Church Supply stores, black skull caps for priests were sold until recent times. [you can still buy them today] In the Roman Church the bishops wore a red skull cap [no: red purple (fuchsia, amaranth, church violet, paonazzo) pileoli, cardinals wear red] to show authority, and regular parish clergy wore black ones. Over the thin skull caps bishops wore a miter or a red [red purple (fuchsia)] biretta, and priests wore a black biretta. Now one can see only the Roman bishops [No. cardinals, abbots, priests, too] wearing a skull cap. Similarly, it is the same practice that was handed down from pope to pope. The Pope (bishop) of Rome wears a white skull cap, because all his habits are white to show his high rank above the bishops whose habits are red in color, both the cassock and sash and the skull cap.

The Greeks who are culturally more European continued this custom for their bishops and priests with variations resulting from their cultural background [As far as I know the Greek orthodox clergy do not wear any skullcaps. They wear a skufia or a kamilavka or an epanokamelavkion]. The Copts on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea continued this practice. When I visited Egypt a few years ago, I saw their priests always wearing skull caps [called takia]. The Armenians had their own forms of skull caps [I doubt that Armenian orthodox clergy wear skullcaps?]. In addition, we observe that the monastic hood of the West and the monastic schema of the Greeks, Syrians, Copts, and Armenians are also the continuation of this Jewish custom. Monks spend most of their time in prayer and meditation and they do it with their heads covered, a practice continued from our common Jewish religious heritage. The profession of a monk culminates with the vesting of the new monk with a hood or schema. This is not a recent practice. Our readers may have seen the icon/ picture of St. Ephraim the Syrian, a great ascetic and deacon, with a schema on his head. In the Byzantine tradition, monks wear a hood with a long veil hanging behind them. You could see this hood and veil on all eastern bishops, because they are generally monks. [This is not correct. Perhaps the author mean the klobuk or the Greek epanokamilavkhion, a hat with a veil attached? This is not a hood.]

But the skull cap of the Syrian Church is to be worn by both bishops and priests during liturgical functions. If one is a monk (Rabban) or a bishop, he still has to wear this skull cap under the monastic schema; because the skull cap is more significant than the schema; the former is the symbol of the Holy Priesthood, which is a sacrament, and on the other hand monastic life is only one of the ways of Christian living.

According to the Syrian Church, another very significant symbol is attached to the skull cap. It symbolizes the crown of thorns that our Lord wore when He offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world. The priest is sacramentally Christ Himself, and he has to wear this symbol of the crown of thorns when he actualizes the same sacrifice of Christ in our midst and in our time. Hence it is mandatory that prelates and hieromonks (Rabbans), who are also priests, wear the skull cap under their schema during liturgical services, particularly during the celebration of Eucharistic liturgies and the administration of sacraments and other offices.

Although the freemen in the Roman Empire did not cover their heads like the slaves, they had hats to signify their governmental or social positions, which they wore during public functions. When the slaves covered their heads to show their respect for the masters, the noble freemen took their hats off in deference to the Emperor during public functions. This was a common practice within the Roman Empire. This is the reason why men take off their hats when entering inside a church. The same practice influenced the clergy in the Roman Empire. This considerably affected their use of the skull cap during liturgical services. The Roman bishops and priests therefore began to take off their skull caps right before the consecration of the elements during the Eucharistic celebration, and place them back on their heads after the consecration. The Greek Church was a church within the Roman Empire, and their clergy also have a similar practice. Right before the consecration, the Greek bishops and priests take off their head-cover [Is that true?]. Other Churches in the East also may have borrowed this practice. However, one should realize the fact that, for the Syrian Church, the skull cap is in the place of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus when He immolated Himself as a sacrifice for the universe. Hence it is mandatory that the Syrian clergy, under the Catholicate of the East or under the Patriarchate of Antioch, wear skull caps during their priestly functions.

In the Syrian Church the bishops and chorepiscopi take off their linen/velvet crown (bathrashil) or black biretta (miter) when they sing the prayers of Eucharistic consecration, when they read the Gospels, and when the Eucharistic elements are exposed. The skull cap for the Syrians is a symbol and the fruit of priesthood and it symbolizes the crown of Jesus while He was offering the eternal sacrifice; and hence it will remain on the head of the priest even during the most important moments of the liturgical services. On the other hand, crowns and birettas are objects signifying authority, and therefore are to be taken of when the Sovereign of the universe is present sacramentally or through the Word of God in the Gospels. Moreover, it is logical to think that priests are slaves before the King of kings, and have to cover their heads before their Master like the Roman slaves did.

Who Wears A Skull Cap? 

In the Church of Malankara deacons and minor clergy are also given skull caps to wear, and this practice is WRONG. Canons of the Church require only the priests to wear them; and with skull caps on their heads should priests enter the sanctuary at any time. On the other hand, deacons and minor clergy (subdeacons, lectors and cantors) enter the sanctuary without skull caps on them. During the ordination of a priest his skull cap is blessed with the rest of his priestly vestments, and after he is vested the ordaining bishop ceremoniously places the skull cap over his head as the external sign of his holy priesthood. Hence it is called the fruit of priesthood (Phiro d’Kohnutho). The deacons and the minor clergy are vested only with an alb and a stole which they wear according to the design specified for their offices; no skull cap is blessed or given to them.

Strictly speaking the minor clergy do not have to wear clerical habits either outside the church. They could wear lay cloths, but use the alb and stole while serving in the sanctuary. It is because they appear in public with clerical habits and skull caps that they and the public feel they should become priests. Like in the Middle East, the Church of Malankara should separate the major clergy from the minor clergy. Minor clergy seeking priesthood later, however, may use clerical habits in the seminary while they are pursuing priestly studies, but should never be permitted to wear them outside the seminary. But even in the seminary they should not use skull caps.

All clergy in the priestly orders, such as hierarchs (including catholicoi, patriarchs, metropolitans and bishops) chorepiscopi (chorbishops), abbots, priests, and hieromonks are to wear skull caps during religious services. Hierarchs in the Orthodox churches are generally monks and they have to wear the skull cap under their monastic veils (schema) [I do not think so?]. Chorbishops and abbots wear a large black cap, which is somewhat equivalent to a biretta of the western Church [a skufia/skufos or kamilavka/kamilavkion?]. They cannot wear the biretta and offer divine services without the skull cap under it. These birettas are in place of the Maznaptho worn over the heads by priests of the episcopal orders. If they use a biretta, they should take it off when they consecrate Eucharistic elements, read the Gospels, and when the Eucharistic elements are exposed.

Many people erroneously call the monastic schema, Maznaptho. Maznaptho is an embroidered linen/ velvet crown worn by the higher clergy of the episcopal rank. [I should come back to the maznaptho and the eskimo in a future post.]

Chorepiscopi wear the same Maznaptho, but they do not wear them on their heads, but on their shoulders, because their full episcopal functions were curtailed by the emerging audacity of the bishops of cities (metropolitans) who wanted to rule over a wider territory beyond their urban boundaries. Thus the chorepiscopates became weaker and weaker since the seventh century, and their functions became limited. To signify this difference, they wear the Maznaptho on their shoulders. However, in some eastern churches they wear the Maznaptho (which is also called the chorepiscopal hood) on their heads, but they do not wear a pallium, which is called himation in Greek and Bathrashil in Syriac. In the Roman Church the size of pallium was reduced into a small stole worn only by archbishops. Among the Eastern churches, Byzantine Orthodox patriarchs and metropolitans wear a long himation. Actually the himation has its origin from the Greek nobility whose men wore a large oblong mantle to designate their dignity, and this practice was adopted by the Roman and Greek Churches. It was because of the heavily Hellenic influence in the Thurabdeen and Antiochian areas that the West Syrian Church adopted the practice of wearing a himation by patriarchs and metropolitans. Strictly speaking, during the ordination of an ordinary bishop the bathrashil is not a required vestment, and an ordinary bishop does not have to wear a bathrashil. The bathrashil is given to a bishop when he becomes the bishop of a metropolitan city (Metropolitan of the big city). However, in the Syrian Church all bishops, regardless of their ranks, now wear the bathrashil. The chorbishops did not wear the bathrashil from the very beginning even during the time they enjoyed their full functions as bishops, because they were not metropolitan bishops. This discussion on the bathrashil was parenthetically necessary to complement our study of the skull cap.

The Caps Currently Worn by the Priests of the Church of Malankara?

We have seen that the skull caps worn by Christian bishops and priests are coming from our common heritage with the Jewish tradition and religious culture. Many years ago, in India these caps were made by a low caste tailor group called Panans. Their product was the combination of seven triangular black pieces of cloths stitched together in the fashion of a Jewish yarmulke. Its diameter was around six to seven inches and had a half inch border in order to keep itself in place over the head without slippage. This was more close to a yarmulke. Even when professional tailors began to make this skull cap it remained closer to a yarmulke. This was the skull cap this writer received when he was ordained a deacon, and when he was ordained a priest it was the same size of skull cap that was blessed and placed over his head.

Later our clergy in India began to adapt the fashions of the caps worn by Muslims [the thoppi?], which are foldable. Foldable caps were larger and of different shapes. This cap covered the entire top half of the head. The skull cap covers only less than half of the top of the head. This is what our counterparts in the Middle East still use. When I went to the Old Seminary in Kottayam with a traditional skull cap, even the professors there looked at me as if I had failed to observe the traditions. We follow the Syrian Church for our liturgy and religious traditions. Unfortunately we failed in observing many things that are essentials to that tradition. Yes, this writer emphasizes that the caps worn by the priests of the Orthodox Church in India do not satisfy the traditional requirements of the skull cap used in the Syrian tradition. The caps our priests wear do imitate a Muslim design rather than the Judeo-Christian design of the skull cap. This writer urges our Syrian clergy in India and abroad to stick to the traditional skull cap of our fathers in the past. The priestly skull cap is a small cap circularly covering the top of the head with a diameter of six to eight inches, depending on the size of the head; it definitely is not the imitation of the Muslim cap. +kct @TVOO

[I miss some information about the mudi thoppi, the hat of the Syriac Orthodox bishops?]

January 07, 2011

Kossita - The Head Covering of the Bishops of the Assyrian Church of the East

[N.B. This is no extensive and complete disquisition on the head coverings of the bishops of the Assyrian Church of the East. It is merely intended to provide students and interested readers with a starting point before taking their studies to a more profound level. The links mentioned as source of the pictures are from 2007. Unfortunately a few of them are no more connected.]

Images a) and b)
His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV Khanania
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East (New Calendarists)
born 1935
Morton Grove, Illinois, USA
wearing a red purple Kossita with 4 rings

Image 2
His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV Khanania
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East (New Calendarists)
together with H. H. Pope Benedict XVI on 21st of June 2007 at the Vatican
wearing a dark red (burgandy) Kossita with 3 rings

Image 3
His Holiness Mar Addai II Shleemon Gheevargese
Patriarch of the Apostolic Church of the East (Old Calendarists)
born 1950
Bagdad, Iraq
wearing a red Kossita with 3 rings

Image 4
His Holiness Mar Addai II Shleemon Gheevargese
Catholicos and Patriarch of the old Church of the East (Old Calendarists)
at a visit to Northern America in January 2007,
wearing a cassock and a zucchetto quite similar to those worn by the Catholic bishops

Image 5
Mar Iskhaq Yosip – Mar Isaac Joseph
Bishop of Northern Iraq and Russia
Born 1959
Domicile: Dohuk, Iraq
(Dohuk is the capital of the governorate Dahuk in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, Iraq) wearing a red Kossita with 3 rings

Image 6
„Barrie Schwortz with Archbishop Gewargis Sliwa“
23rd of January 2006 at Los Angeles
His Blessedness metropolitan bishop Mar Gewahrgis Sliwa
born 1941
domicile: Bagdad, Iraq
wearing a violet Kossita with 3 rings

Image 7
Sunday 14th of December 2008
H. H. Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Church of the East, in the company of prelates from several dioceses, laying the foundation stone for Ss Peter and Paul Parish at Kosovich Place, Cecil Park (Western suburb of Sydney)

Image 8
The prelate on the right wears a bright red Kossita with 3 rings and a sheaf of black string which is tied to the rear at the top of the hat.

Image 9
The prelate on the left wears a bright red Kossita with 3 rings. The cloth was plied at its top. At its centre, there is a button.

Image 10
Mar Yosip Khnanisho X. (* 1893; † 3rd of July 1977 at Bagdad) was a Metropolitan bishop and a patriarchal administrator of the Assyrian Church of the East.
© http://www.betnahrain.net/Biographies/MarYosip.jpg

Image 11
Mar Aprem George Mooken
born 1940
Metropolitan bishop of Thrissur and the whole of India
domicile: Thrissur, Kerala, India
wearing a red Kossita with 3 rings

Image 12
Relief from the North-Western palace at Nimrud  (865 B.C.)
King Ashurnasirpal looking at the tree of life with 2 deities by his side.
 British Museum, London.

Image 13
Holy tree
Assyrian tree of life
Inside the green marks, there are 3 rings which are fairly similar to those of the Kossita.

Image 13
Lamassu, a mythical creature frequently depicted in recent Assyrian art. Its body is that of a bull or lion; its head is that of a bearded man with fez-like polos. The tight-fitting ornaments, extending to the front and to the top are interpreted as horns (horn polos). The bull-like Lamassus found in the palace of Assumasirpal II at Kalach (Nimrud) are most commonly known (British Museum). Usually, these mythical creatures were carved in stone and erected at the sides of large gates, e.g. at those of temples.

Image 14
Assyrian King wearing a headcovering with 3 rings

Sashta (Kurdish)
Kossita (Modern Assyrian)

Both words designate a „hat“. The headcovering consists of two parts:

(1)   A round cylindrical „Tarboosh (Fez)“, clad in bright red (cardinal), dark red (wine red) or violet fabric, at the centre


(2)   Tubes of cloth filled with cotton wool. These tubes are wrapped around the Tarboosh (Fez). They are fixed at the back with a noose. The noose covers the stitching of the tubes.

At the top, the cover of fabric is either flat or plied with a small button at the centre. At the back, there is a lace (approx. 4 cm wide) intended to cover the stitching of the tubes and fix their position. Very few Kossitas have a sheaf of black strings from the upper centre to the brim, like the Fez. This bunch of string is fixed beneath the tubes.

The 3 rings are supposed to represent the trinity (of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). These 3 rings can be found in depictions of the Assyrian tree of life and the headcovering of the Lamassu, too.

In the article „Exquisite Lecture by Dr. Donny George at "CSUS“, cited from Assyria Times, 14th of December 2008, Shamiram Danilia reports:

„The audience was astonished when Dr. George explained carved horn shaped circles on the headgear of ancient Assyrian Guardian (Lamasu) monument. The circles were the symbol of Divinity which are almost identical to today’s headgears worn only by the Assyrian Bishops and Patriarch. At that very moment, 200 set of eyes rested on the headgear worn by His Grace Mar Sargis Yousip, bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East sitting in the front row.“
(source: http://www.assyriatimes.com/engine/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3351)

The red colour is supposed to commemorate the martyrdom which shaped the Assyrian church and the nation.

Allegedly, the colour violet was turned into dark red when Kurdish sheiks started to wear violet clothes, too. From then on, the bishops of the Assyrian church decided to wear dark red.

Concerning the 4 rings of H. H. Mar Dinkha, I was given the following possible explanations on my request:

(1)   The foster-father of H. H. Mar Dinkha, Mar Yosip Khnanisho (1893-1977), a metropolitan bishop and representative of the Catholicos-Patriarch in Iraq, who raised Mar Dinkha from the age of 11 used to wear a Kossita with 4 rings as well. Hence, the 4 rings are supposed to commemorate his spiritual mentor.

(2)   The 4 rings symbolize the fact that H. H. Mar Dinkha IV is the 4th Mar Dinkha, if one takes into account the sequence of 120 patriarchs that have been in power ever since the Assyrian Church of the East was founded.

(3)   The 4 rings symbolize: Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Patriarch

The exact shape of the Kossita is not uniform or standardised. Depending on who wears it/ which tailor manufactured it the Kossita can differ in shape and making. The colour, too, may be chosen freely by the prelate supposed to wear it.

So far, I have not been able to find out why H. H. Mar Addai II has not worn a Kossita, but a Pileolus lately. His intention might be to distinguish himself from the New Calendarists, though.

Images with several models and styles:

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