An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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Tonsure

A traditional shaving of the head for monks and diocesan clergy. The tonsure was a point of friction between Celtic and Latin monks in the British Isles of the seventh and eighth centuries. The Celtic monks shaved the fore part of the head; Latin monks shaved the center part of the head, leaving a crown of hair. The Celtic practice disappeared progressively as more monks adopted the Rule of St. Benedict. The smaller tonsure of diocesan clergy marked admittance to clerical privileges. The practice of clerical tonsure was abandoned by the Reformers. It was abolished in the Roman Catholic Church in 1972 by Paul VI. The monastic tonsure is itself becoming rare as monks become more involved in outside activities.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.