Why monks had that haircut

By | August 30, 2019

Look at this painting. It’s Saint Francis and Pope Honorius III. You can probably find the monks. It’s the hair. This is not just a haircut. The more you look, the more this haircut shows
deep religious divides. One style was even lost to time, after being
banned by the Roman Catholic Church. The scalp is a statement of faith, but it’s
also a battleground. Hair’s religious rite extends far beyond
Christianity. Some Buddhist monks shave their heads and
some Orthodox Jews don’t shave the corners of their heads. The Catholic monks were known for centuries
for their particularly distinctive hairstyle. This haircut, with the center shave, is called
a tonsure. It started in the 4th or 5th century. And the most recognizable is the Coronal tonsure, possibly modeled on Jesus’ crown of thorns on the cross. It’s actually one of three types. The Coronal is the Roman, or Petrine tonsure,
after Saint Peter. There’s also the Pauline tonsure, named after
Saint Paul, and used more commonly in Eastern Orthodoxy. It is a fully shaved head. But in the Dark Ages, there was a third tonsure
too. And that’s the shape that largely disappeared
from the Church. That hairstyle was a visible symbol of diverging
faiths and that’s the reason that it was banned. When Pope Gregory sent missionaries from Rome
to the British Isles in the late 6th century, he found differences between the Roman Catholic
Church and Celtic Church. Ones that revealed serious disagreements about religious practice. Celtic Catholicism was out of sync with the
Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics would later use the differences
between them to portray Celtic Catholicism as Pagan or even as an offshoot celebrating
the power-hungry magician, Simon Magus. There were concrete disputes. Most importantly, they disagreed on when to
celebrate Easter and another significant disagreement was the shape of the tonsure. McCarthy wanted to learn the shape of this
tonsure, because it represented the split in the Roman Celtic Churches. He thought the old guesses about its design
were wrong. You can’t just scroll through photos of 7th
century monk haircuts. Figuring out the shape of the tonsure these
monks use, is a detective story. It required McCarthy to parse texts like the
Book of Kells and records of old letters. From that, he could figure out
the shape. These old texts and illustrations only gave McCarthy a view of the front and back of the head. To picture an aerial view, he had to build
one. These differences over tonsure were outward
signs of a split in the Church. When the Roman Catholic Church took Ireland,
they slowly changed its tonsure too. In 664, the king of Northumbria agreed on
the Roman Catholic date for Easter and the Roman Catholic tonsure. The change wasn’t instant, but over time the
triangular tonsure disappeared. Today some monks practice tonsure while others
don’t. It varies across religion and monastery. In the Roman Catholic Church, clerical tonsure
ended in 1972. When it was common, this unusual haircut was
a powerful symbol of monastic separation and the Church’s power. But it’s actually
not so strange.

100 thoughts on “Why monks had that haircut

  1. Vox Post author

    If you haven't heard, we launched a membership program on YouTube! And of course we made a video explaining it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0cvGRUbusQ

  2. Brooke Frohlich Post author

    I had a friend in middle school who shaved his head like that for extra credit in our world history class. He got the credit.

  3. Justin Reyez Post author

    I thought being a baldy was requirement of these monks

  4. Liam Bowen Post author

    Dan McCarthy should have got a triangular tonsure to help in the research process

  5. Donald Trump Post author


  6. John Michael Rili Post author

    That call ring tone make my heartbeat go fast.

  7. roblox is life Post author

    one of the stupidest haircuts ive seen in my life. worse than the bowl haircut 🤦‍♀️

  8. Charlie Slump Post author

    Triangle tonsure was lit bring it back

  9. Christopher Ramos Post author

    That Skype sound…. don't ever. again.
    I thought it was my boss calling.

  10. Choobway Post author

    It’s probably because so that god can connect with them easier

  11. Kightsun Post author

    Differences of practice and Jurisdictional disagreement arent quite enough to qualify as differences of faith.

  12. Mart kenyon Post author

    But why did they have that haircut? I feel like this main question is never answered.

  13. Deel Weed Post author

    Me: Ruin my life
    Barber: Say no more !
    Get's monk haircut

  14. GIF CANCEL Post author

    This is subtle but very marked anti Catholicism. jews at work to destroy Faith.

  15. Mari Tsuyuchi Post author

    Wow that skype sound,
    i was literally paused the video and check my computer to see if that my bf calling or not ;w;

  16. LittleArmyNut Post author

    you will only remember this if you were born in the Holy Roman Empire in the 6th century smh

  17. gvillxtine 27 Post author

    okay but like am i going crazy or was the title question was never answered

  18. Daniel Lewis Post author

    And the Sikhs don't shave their beards.

  19. Victoria Post author

    Lmao dude tried to explain road men’s hairstyles and compare them to monks

  20. Zac Bales-Henry Post author

    I’m still wondering why monks had that haircut.

  21. Oxygen Theif Post author

    I always thought it was because they were getting naturally bald

  22. Bernardo H Post author

    How about Donald Trump's tonsure style ?

  23. Jonathan Ganesh Post author

    Because religion makes you say and do stupid things. Lol.

  24. Slim Morden Post author

    In those days hair removal was the only way to eliminate lice, ticks and other vermin. Read your history.

  25. Jovan Weismiller Post author

    I have seldom watched such bollocks! I can't even begin to point out the egregious errors!

  26. Blu Pyxi Post author

    Cause of death: boredom from watching this video to the end.

  27. Thomas Giles Post author

    So… Q: Why did monks have that haircut? A: Because they did, I guess. /shrug/

    The video doesn't talk about the origin of the tonsure in the first place, so we get no idea as to the reason why a haircut was used as a symbol of faith or piety.

  28. Elizabeth McQueen Post author

    Wales= Cymru not Cymry, Cymry can describe the people though (y Cymry= the Welsh).

  29. Sassy Antelope Post author

    Its disgusting to see someone with a horrible haircut

  30. Helen Myers Post author


    (This is a very quick answer to sum up a lot of historical discussion)

    – Hair = riches, power, vanity and sexuality etc. In cutting off their hair, monks were showing their willingness to forgo worldly concerns, principally wealth and sexual relationships – for the same reason, Christian nuns cover their hair.
    – alongside this, short hair mimicked those who had become slaves, showing them to be servants to christ
    – it is thought that the original disciples of jesus similarly cut their hair
    – there was also a strong element of group identity; those of a religious order were instantly recognisable
    – it showed discipline; keeping hair in this style required maintenance and not doing so was often seen as abandoning the religious way of life

    PS most believe, I think, that the Celtic tonsure was shaved in front of a line running from ear to ear. The Roman = crown of thorns, The Celtic = indicative of slavery

  31. Jordan Ocampo Post author

    These guys hairline look like a skate ramp 😂😂😂😂

  32. memo A Post author


  33. Sany Suny Post author

    They invented a "fashionable" haircut that would hide the fact that they were balding.

  34. Vanessa Acosta Hernández Post author

    umm those animator friends did him so dirty

  35. Finn Leason Post author

    I think it is either a sign of humility (i.e. bald people are uglier), or as a halo/crown of thorns/laurel wreath.

  36. Carina Tang Post author

    I was hoping to find out WHY monks had that funny bald-centre haircut…then you started going on about some divide, 2 other versions of the monk hairdo, and what this mysterious 3rd one looked like that I never really cared about…

  37. Josephina Carlucci Post author

    I feel like the ring around the head is like an angel’s ring

  38. Thijs de Boer Post author

    Me: has a test tomorrow

  39. Roblox Dude man Post author

    No one:

    Me: look its father banks

  40. Rock About Post author

    The depths of remarkable thought that religion brings us.

  41. Jesse Woodward Post author

    Tonsure. The Irish name 'Milligan' comes from the monks who were Tonsured in Ireland. I think it was spelt O'Maologin originally?

  42. EnduroEspresso Post author

    need to have a computer model>? people still grow hair for christ sake!!!

  43. condorX2 Post author

    Why won't they just cut it bald and have a unity amount their religion?
    We won't judge them and say ohh they're copying a really old religion call Buddhism, with bells, burning incense, wearing a robe, having similar hand praying gesture etc.

  44. 414MrMilwaukee Post author

    💈 Goes to barbershop 💈

    Me: I feel like having something new…

    Me: Hmmm…..I want that monk

    Barber: ……ok….hand me that bowl

    Me: 😎

  45. 90s kid 2001 Post author

    Funny thing is I could see all of these haircuts as completely normal

  46. Brandon Stennett Post author

    Hey ,favor could you guys explain the NO BAIL SWEDEN SITUATION ? would help us ASAP.

  47. andrei koolaid Post author

    I always thought the reason they had that as a symbol is for balding guys to have a good excuse

  48. Archibold Grimm Post author

    Eastern Orthodoxy does not tonsure like that. They cut only a lock of hair.

  49. vivian barajas Post author

    Finally. Now I can sleep knowing answer about why Monks have these haircuts.~

  50. Vasudevan Nishanth Post author

    This hair style is still practiced by some Christians in south Indian state of tamilnadu…

  51. TheFireaster Post author

    All my cousins and friends have the shaved sides of there head…. interesting lol

  52. Sly CANdí Post author

    I don’t think Religion was the real reason that haircut was banned 😂.

  53. Flor T.A. Post author

    They abolished tonsure because there were more nonmonks who became bald and then ladies are being turned on by bald men

  54. Pork Plug Post author

    Thank god my search for this answer has been quenched

  55. 33 73 Post author

    MONK HAIR DONT CARE BABY. AMEN 🙏 (monks chant quietly in the background)

  56. Scarlett Symetria Post author

    At first i thought they modelled it after the shape of an Angel's halo but it turns out following the crown of thorns. Though its funny they cant figure out older men have genetic alopecia and why people get a tiny mohawk. Its just simple and practical.

  57. Flower on Discord Post author

    Lol I though someone was calling me when that skype sound appeared also something notified me at the same time 😂

  58. Astro Bear Post author

    It makes me upset that the main question was answered just at the very end and really quickly.
    The whole video was about something else.

  59. Michelle Tabisz Post author

    I always thought tonsure had something to do with a halo and being holy. I mean that's why kings and queens wore crowns, to mimic the appearance of the halos on angels, in order to symbolize that they were not only God-chosen rulers but also demi-god-like themselves. Kings and queens believed that they directly connected to God above all others. Back to the monks, I also theorized it has something to do with the shaved head being a weird spiritual thing where god can look down from the heavens and see his followers from the tops of their heads. That mixed with just being able to stand out (obviously well achieved) from the ordinary people. I'm sure if I asked a monk from those times why… he wouldn't understand me because English has changed so much.

  60. Etothe2iPi Post author

    If I were to found a religion, I would prove that god wants all his followers to paint their left ear green. Everybody would have to respect that and everybody who painted their right ear, or their left ear in a different color would have to be killed. How wonderful religious traditions are!

  61. Bobby Allen Post author

    When I was a Marine we got a special type of haircut on occasion called a ," high and tight" and it was a show of motivation and love for the Corps.Other Marines would make fun and mock the haircut because of the symbolism.The Marine Corps is its own religion.OORAH!!

  62. Z K Post author

    What about the haircuts of English friars? Like that of the famous Friar Tuck. They were like tonsures but the middle was shaved above the brow creating a horseshoe or crescent shape of hair

  63. Michael DeSilvio Post author

    American rappers are bringing back this hairdo.

  64. Shamim sk Post author

    I learn how to hide bald spot just shave the top most crown and your left with tonsure

  65. I love to play my bass guitar Post author

    And the prodigy/schopenhauer haircut ?

  66. Malena _ Post author

    Can someone please say how to make this and TED ED kind of videos with animations,etc?

  67. Andrew Durand Post author

    Fully shaved head is not Eastern Orthodox. They don't shave at all. Their tonsure is to take a small clipping at baptism, or acceptance into the lower orders of the clergy.

  68. PaperParade Post author

    …So my GUESS to the question would be that it was influenced by the Romans, as Biblically it was considered shameful or a sign of mourning to have a shaved head.


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