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 beyondChristianity.
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 Romal, or Petrime 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 disappearedfrom 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 CatholicChurch and Celtic Church.
Ones that revealed serious disagreements about religious practice.
You live on the other side of the Atlantic,
but in these islands, the controversies that developed in the seventh century, they were very widespread.
They covered both the south and the north of Britain and all of Ireland.
That brought the customs of the Roman Church up against the customs
of the churches in Britain and in Ireland.
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.
The Roman church used a coronal or a ” circular” tonsure.
Churches in the British Isles used a different-shaped 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 designwere wrong.
You can’t just scroll through photos of 7thcentury 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 letter.
From that, he could figure outthe shape.
When it was viewed from the front, it superficially resembled the Roman tonsure.
When it was viewed from the rear,it was cut straight between the two ears.
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.
It has to be a simple shape in order to be practically imposed on the human head.
It has to be fairy simple.
I concluded that a triangle would be a possible solution.
I had the good fortune that I had colleagues working in computer graphics.
–that was almost 18 years ago now that this was talking place.
Things weren’t quite as advanced as they are now.
(But)They undertook to model these suggestions for me.
And they produced images from above looking down on the top of the head.
And from behind.
And then looking from the front at eye level.
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 actuallynot so strange.
There’s a fashion around here for young men to
completely shave the sides of their head and just leaving a patch on top.
Now, I don’t believe there’s any religious significance of this.
but you can see that there’s a sort of a cult significance to them.
They’re still ways in which we use to identify our membership of communities.
Now, I think the hair is particularly potent
because it’s visible all the time
and it’s located right beside our control center.
So it couldn’t be in a hardly in a more significant location.