CHAPTER III. Mitre.
1. History. — 2. Shape. — 3. Kinds of Mitres. —4- Incorrect Expressions.—5. An Abuse. — 6. Deceased Prelates. — 7. Mitre of Eastern Bishops.
1. There is no documentary evidence that the mitre was in general use before the tenth century. Before that time, it seems to have been the special headdress of the Pope and of the principal members of the clergy of Rome. In the eleventh century, certain Popes began to grant the privilege of wearing the mitre to Bishops whom they intended to honor in some special manner. (a) But the mitre does not appear in history as one of the episcopal insignia before the twelfth century. From that time on, Bishops are always represented as wearing the mitre; the bronze doors of the Cathedral of Benevento, which were wrought about 1150 A. D., represent, among other subjects, the Archbishop of that city with his twenty suffragan Bishops, all wearing the mitre.
Abbots adopted the mitre in the same century, (b) in spite of the objections of some rigid observants, like St. Bernard, who inveighed against the wearing of this new ornament by Abbots, as breathing worldly vanity. But these pious protests were of no avail, and, very shortly after St. Bernard's death, the wearing of the mitre became the privilege of Abbots as well as of Bishops.
2. The essential parts of the mitre are two flat pieces terminating in point, sewed together at the lower part of their lateral sides; with two flaps, called "fanons," meant to fall from it behind over the shoulders of the wearer. Originally these "fanons" may have been strings or strips destined to secure the mitre on the head of the Prelate by being tied under the chin.
Artists and manufacturers of ecclesiastical vestments often lose sight of the traditional ornamentation of the mitre, which should essentially consist of two bands called respectively circulus and titulus. The circulus is a band which encircles the lower part of the mitre, so as to form a crown around the forehead of the Prelate; the titulus is the band which is perpendicular to the circulus. (c) Often, though incorrectly, a cross, or floral designs are embroidered on mitres instead of these traditional bands. In the last quarter of a century, there has been a universal movement towards the revival of the graceful shape and decoration of the medieval mitre. The figures which illustrate this chapter show the pentagonal shape and the circulus and titulus of the medieval mitre. The mitre thus shaped was the only one in use until the end of the sixteenth century; at that time, a new form of the mitre crept into use, and was soon pretty generally adopted; it is what is known as the "seventeenth century mitre," or "Italian mitre." It is ogival in shape, a cubit long, and the titulus and the oirculus are in most cases omitted. This high mitre is not only ugly and out of proportion, but is heavy and inconvenient to wear. These defects have prompted many Prelates to revert to the pre-renaissance form of the mitre, the "low mitre," as it is called, which is more traditional in its shape and decoration, much less heavy, and perfectly secure on the head.
The precious mitre (mitra pretiosa), as its name indicates, should be as richly adorned as possible. It is made of fine white silk or silver cloth tastefully embroidered with silk and gold, and may be studded with precious stones. On its "fanons," which end in gold tassels or fringes, the coat-ofarms of the Prelate should be embroidered in proper colors.
The orphreyed mitre (mitra auriphrygiata) is less rich than the mitra pretiosa. According to the etymology of its name, this mitre should be "embroidered with gold." Since the eighteenth century, custom seems to have prevailed to make it of plain gold cloth; but many Prelates have recently come back to the old "auriphrygiata," and wear it as a white silk mitre, with the titulus and circulus "applique" or embroidered with silk and gold.
The simple mitre (mitra simplex) is entirely white, made of silk or linen cloth, without embroidery, and its fanons terminate in red fringes. The simple mitre of the Pope is of silver cloth, bordered with a strip of gold. This style of mitre is a special privilege of the Sovereign Pontiff, which no other Prelate is ever allowed to wear. The simple mitre of Cardinals and Bishops is of white damask. Abbots, Protonotaries and Canons, who have the privilege of the pontificals, should use a simple mitre of linen. (e) The mitre of linen is the only one allowed to Bishops when they dress in "their pontificals in presence of the Pope; on such occasions, the simple mitre worn by Cardinals is the mitre of white damask. (f)
Sometimes the Ceremonial of Bishops designates the orphreyed mitre as "mitra simplex," and the simple mitre as "mitra simplex alba;" but, in both cases, the style designated is made clear by the context.
Cardinals and Bishops may make use of the three kinds of mitres, according to the directions given by the Ceremonial. (g) Abbots are entitled to use only two mitres— the auriphrygiata and the simplex alba, (h) unless they have been granted a special privilege; and the same regulations must be observed by the seven Protonotaries Apostolic di numero (i) By his constitution Inter multiplices, Pius X., granted to the Protonotaries Apostolic supernumerary the privilege of wearing a special mitre, which corresponds to the "auriphrygiata" of higher Prelates; this mitre is made of white silk, bordered with gold, and its fanons end in gold tassels or fringes. It is worn by the Prelate at such times as the Ceremonial directs the Bishop to put on the precious mitre. (j)
The Protonotaries Apostolic ad instar participantium are entitled to wear only one mitre, the simple mitre of white damask without any embroidery, the fanons of which end in red fringes. (k)
4. From the above principles it follows that the mitre does not exclusively belong to Bishops; therefore, expressions in which the word "mitre" is taken figuratively for "episcopate" or "diocese" are incorrect; it can not mean "episcopate," because the mitre is not a sign of order; or, "diocese," because it is still less a sign of jurisdiction.
5. Another abuse, which is quite common in Europe— but fortunately is almost unknown in this country—consists in wearing the mitre, instead of the biretta, as a complement of the choir dress; while the mitre should be worn only when the Prelate is "paratus," that is, clad in his pontificals. (l)
6. All Prelates who are entitled by law to wear the mitre—Cardinals, Bishops and Abbots—should be buried with the mitre on; those who wear it by general or special privilege, as Prelates and Canons, should not be laid out and buried with the mitre on, but with the biretta. (m)
7. The mitre of Oriental Bishops is very different from that worn by the Prelates of the Western Church, for it looks like an Imperial crown. This shape, which is universal in the Eastern rites, is very ancient, as we find it mentioned in the writings of Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who died in 638. Some Oriental rites, however, have given up the use of the Eastern mitre and adopted the Occidental; such are the Maronites, Copts and Syrians. Among Armenian Bishops, there is no uniformity of usage on this point; some wearing the Latin mitre, while others remain faithful to Oriental traditions. (n)
(a) St. Leo IX. In 1049, fare the "Roman mitre," with the title of Primate, to Eberhardt, Archbishop of Treves. This is the first instance known of the concession of the mitre. Some other instances are recorded before this, bnt the texts which mention them are of doubtful authenticity.
(b) According to Mabillon, the first concession of the mitre to an abbot was made by Alexander II. in 1061; this Abbot was Elgesinus, Abbot of St Augustine's, Canterbury; but there are instances of earlier concessions.
(c) Cahier et Martin, Nouveauæ Melanges d'Arohiologie (Decoration d'eglises), p. 1, seq.— Battandier, Annuaire Pontifical (1900), p. 185.
(d) Caer. Episc. I., xvii., 1.
(e) Thls is the general rule; but there are many exceptions to It, as is Indicated further.
(f) The color of the mitre Is now Invariably white (gold cloth standing for white). There are instances of mitres of different colors, proving that the present discipline on this point was not so strictly adhered to in ancient times.—Cfr. Woodward, Ecclesiastical Heraldry, p. 68.— Battandier, Annuaire (1900), pp. 186-7—(1901), pp. 162-3.
(g) Caer. Episc. I., xvii., 2, 3.
(h) Cap. Ut Apostolicae, De prlvilegiis, in 6°—S. R. C, July 20, 1660.
(i) Pius X. Const. Inter multiplices (1905), n. 9.
(j) Pius X. Const, cit., n. 27.
(k) Pius X. Const, cit., n. 47.
(l) Caer. Episc. II., I., 4.—II., viii., 21.—Roman Pontifical, passim. —In some cases, the Bishop may wear the mitre without being vested in his pontificals; it Is when he performs consecrations without solemnity, or when administering confirmation privately.
(m) See chapter VIII., of the same part.
(n) Battandier, Annuaire Pontifical (1900), pp. 198-9.