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Question 16

Dear Fr Christopher,
Ε υ λ ο γ ε ί τ ε !

Again I thankyou, Father Christopher, for taking the time to answer questions of mine previously. I do have another question to ask, regarding practices in the Divine Liturgy and other Holy Services.
From attending the Divine Liturgy (and other Holy Services), I have come to understand that the clerical hat (καλλυμαύκι) is to be worn at certain parts. I have seen that it is worn, for example, when: the deacon says the Great Litany at the start of the Divine Liturgy, or when the priest censes, preaches or ends the Divine Liturgy (Απόλυσης), or when any clergy stand before the bishop on his throne during the Divine Liturgy.
Yet I have also seen that some clergy do not wear their clerical hat at all during the Divine Liturgy.
Therefore, I must ask: When is it required for a clergymen (whether deacon, priest or bishop) to wear his clerical hat during any of the Holy Services of our Church? Is it required at all? Also, what is the purpose behind the clerical hat and what does it symbolise?
I do hope you can help me in my curiosity, and do excuse anything not written correctly above.
I thankyou in advance.


Answer to Question 16

Dear Evangelos.
Greetings in Christ.
Good to hear from you again but what a question! I fully understand your frustration at the different practices observed by various Orthodox churches. Much of what you have said are monastic practices which has influenced certain priests to observing them in the parish. The Kalymavchi has been confused with the monastic hat (cap) (skoufi) which the monk wears at all times and only removes it when he is in the sanctuary. Thus the Hierodeacon (the celibate deacon who is a monk) wears his skoufi when he comes out of the sanctuary to say the Great Litany and at other times except during the reading of the Gospel and from the Great Entrance to the end of Holy Communion. The Hieropriest (celibate priest who is a schema monk) and the Archimandrites also wear there monastic skoufi but also the koukoulion (epanokalumavcho) – the long hooded cloth that covers the skoufi when they come out of the sanctuary to cense and after Holy Communion for the dismissal. Archimandrites serving in parishes have exchanged the monastic skoufi for the kalymavchion and the epanokalumavcho (again the hooded cloth that covers the kalymavchion) because it looks more imposing and superior. Married priests do not wear a skoufi and at no time should they wear their kalymavchion during the services: those who do have been influenced by the monastic practice or because their bishop, who is a monastic, insists that they wear it. St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians says: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head… For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:4,7)
The kalymavchi is not an official requirement of the priest’s attire. What do I mean by this? The Rason belongs to all clerics and they receive this when they are appointed to the office of Reader. Up to the Ottoman Occupation, this was the only garment that priest wore when going and coming from Church. They also wore a kind of soft skoufi but it wasn’t compulsory. They didn’t even wear the ateri (inner rason) which we now associate as the priest’s daily garment but dressed just like everyone else at the time. So if you saw a priest in the street you would not have known that he was a priest unless he was wearing the Rason.
The ateri and the kalymavchion were imposed on the priests during the Ottoman Empire. Some say by the Turks so that the priests would stand out from the rest of the people. But I found another account in Greek which I tried to translate in English but with many words (mostly clothing terminology) not found in any of my dictionaries I had to delete much of what was said. In spite of this one can still understand that the kalymavchion is an innovation as far as it concerns the formal headdress of the clergy. With a short time of less than 200 years it has became part of the official attire for priests and we have forgotten that it was not part of our Orthodox heritage. Personally I feel we should throw it on the rubbish heap, but that is an opinion not shared by the majority of our bishops.
Below I have included my attempt at translating the Greek Study “The historical development of the apparel of Orthodox Priests, Athens 1971”. It covers both the Rason and the Kalymavchion.

Yours in Christ
Fr. Christopher



The rason is a garment that originally developed as a secular clothing in Byzantium from the 6th century. It comes from the Byzantine Kolovio or Kavvadio. The word comes from the Latin rasum, which means non-fluffy dress, a sleek and smooth garment which were usually made of silk. Admittedly this was an imposing and spectacular garment, which paradoxically was preferred by the monks, in spite of the ideal of their humility.
The garment has no relation to the First Christian Church. Christ, the Apostles and in general the clergy until the 4th century wore the same clothes as laymen, without any distinction.
From the 4th century, with the influence of monasticism in the life of the Church, begins a distinction in the clergies clothing, which consisted of black, in other words the clergy wore the same clothes as lay people with the difference only in the colour. And this again was not absolute, because we have evidence that the clergy also wore white or grey clothing. Historians and folklorists Vernadakis and Koukoules, give us a great deal of this kind of information.
From the time of Justinian, with the discovery of silk, strange and luxurious garments were created, which Ecumenical and Local Councils prohibited for the clergy, whom they limited to wearing the same clothing as lay people, but having a simple and modest appearance. This is the meaning of the 27th canon of the Quinisext Council and the 16th canon of the 7th Ecumenical Council.
It is therefore bewildering that the supporters of the Rason rely on these canons to support their arguments when these canons by no means are talking of the Rason, but of flamboyant and luxurious garments, which again found their way into the liturgical life of the Church as holy vestments.
But if the Rason, which developed from the Byzantine kavvadio with wide sleeves, was preferred by the monks, secular clergy, that is the married Priests, continued to wear the common clothing of the time but in simpler form. The Euchologion of Goar gives us the information that the married clergy, after the Divine Liturgy, put aside their priestly vestments and dressed in common clothing.
Noteworthy is the fact that in Galatia in the 5th century, the Bishops wore distinctive clothing for which Pope Kailestinos accused them and said that if it is necessary to distinguish the Bishops, then that distinction should be in the teaching and not in the clothing.
This state continued even during the era of the Ottoman Empire. The luxurious Byzantine clothing, such as the Kavvadio or Koftanio, were adopted by the high ranking Turks. The Rason and the inner rason remained basically the monastic dress.
From the 18th century and more precise from the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774) with the appointment of the rulers of Moldowallachia, the splendour of the Byzantine court once again comes back to life. Thus, many clergy, especially Bishops, begin wearing various precious and valuable garments with embroideries and various gold jewellery and chains.
In response to this situation, a proposal by Neophytos Doukas was presented to the then Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril VI, recommending him to enforce the Rason for all Greek Orthodox Clerics.
In 1815, Ignatius Oungrovlachias, a distinguished and learned clergyman, reacted to this proposal by Neophytos Doukas, and considered the introduction of the Rason as a reform. He speaks “of a national dress”, which was worn in some places by the clergy. What was this national dress, which Ignatius makes mention of? It is the vraka (breeches), the Greek kilt and the fez, characterized as national, as opposed to the tight Frankish (western) clothes.
Fighters of 1912 have informed us that, in Western Macedonia priests wore kontogouni (a pelisse - a short fur lined or fur trimmed short jacket)
Characteristic is the encyclical of the Bishop of Kozani Photios to the priests of his province in 1915, which recommended "that the Reverend Priests should not come into the cities wearing their everyday working clothes.
The monks, however, had uniformed clothing, namely the rason. But the Married clergy didn’t have from the beginning such a tradition.
However, since the literate Priests came from the monastic world, the dress and spirit of the monks was imposed throughout the life of the Church.
Thus, after the Greek independence, the Holy Synod with the encyclical No. 4 821/28 of May 1855, imposed for the sake of uniformity the monastic garments which we have today for all clerics.
Of course, as noted by the late Alexander Peristerios, the Synod does not even hint at rasa and inner rasa, other than wearing clothing of a dark colour, At any rate, today’s clerical garments have a history of around 150 years!
Rather than giving an opinion let us refer to a decision made by the Pan-Orthodox Conference of Constantinople (May-June 1923): “The outer dress of the clergy as it stands today, has nothing in common either with the essence of the priesthood or with the ancient practice of the Church, but is a result of a long progress and a variety of elements. And although unseemly for the clergy it has with time prevailed in the Church. The Rason and the inner rason have nothing to do with faith and neither with the correct understanding of tradition.”
The late Alexander Peristerios writes in the epilogue of his book “The outer appearance of the Orthodox clergy,” that “The married clergy must not be prevented in making a free choice of Rason or common suit outside of his priestly duties. Such a solution is imperative. In this way the complaints of oppression and its causes and the excuses made by those who want to enter the priesthood would disappear without the obligation of wearing the rason everywhere and always – something that with difficulty accommodates the family priest.”
This study gives an occasion and an opportunity for dialogue. Let those who do not agree set forth their objections supporting them with historic and real evidence for a productive dialogue. Or let them say why something must continue to drag on outside of the historic and ecclesiastical tradition.
And the blessed Metropolitan of Siatista Polycarp, in 1968 recommended the amendment of the current garments of the Priests.
The study “The historical evolution of the apparel of Orthodox Priests, Athens 1971”, which received, among many others, warm praise from the then Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, formulated the position that the abolishment of the current garments of the clergy is not easy and cannot be done abruptly. It needs serious enlightenment of the Greek people.
Perhaps, with a clear understanding of the matter by the Holy Synod, the rason could remain as the official garment for priests during the Great Feasts and official engagements. The current inner rason with some modification could remain as the everyday attire, at least for married priests. The Hieromonks could continue wearing the rason for after all it is exclusively theirs because it originated from them.
This will stop the insistence of some, for the Priests to wear the rason everywhere and at all times even with a heatwave of over 40%c.


In the first centuries of the Church, the clergy wore without any distinction one of the hats of the time or left their head uncovered, as shown by the ancient monuments.
Monks wore the koukoulion (cowl, hood). From a combination of the koukoulion and the Asian fakir headdress came the epanokalumavcho of the celibate clergy.
In Byzantine times the clergy just wore one of the hats of the times and the high ranking clergy especially preferred a wide brimmed hat or visor which was also the head coverings of the secular leaders.
The Patriarchs during the Ottoman Occupation continues to wear this kind of headdress until 1669. In 1669, the sultan, in order to humiliate the Patriarch Methodius gave him a red cap. By this he wanted to widen the gap between the Eastern and Western Church by the appearance of the clergy.
From the 18th century the Bishops preferred the cylindrical hat which was especially worn by the rulers of Moldowallachia.
This cylindrical cap was later adapted to the present day kalymavchion. From the Bishops this head cover was given to all the priests including the married clergy. Thus we have information that married clergy wore the foustanella (kilt) or vraka (breeches) and on their heads the kalymmavchion. But it seems that the married clergy did not easily accept this strange and bizarre headgear and some bishops went as far as threatening them with excommunication to enforce them into wearing it.
Admittedly the kalymmavvchion is ugly and is practically useless. Undoubtedly the visor is the Byzantine hat, which was used by the clergy until 1669. In order to return to the ancient Byzantine tradition, the current clergy could wear a hat that looks like the visor and that is the trilby.