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
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
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
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
“THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE APPAREL OF ORTHODOX PRIESTS, ATHENS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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