Cardinal Franciszek Macharski with a scarlet zucchetto

The zucchetto (/(t)sˈkɛt, zˈ-/,[1] also UK: /tsʊˈ-/,[2] US: /zʊˈ-/,[3] Italian: [dzukˈketto]; meaning "small gourd", from zucca, "pumpkin"; plural in English: zucchettos)[a][4] or solideo,[5] officially a pileolus,[6] is a small, hemispherical, form-fitting ecclesiastical skullcap worn by clerics of various Catholic churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and by senior clergy in Anglicanism.[1][2][3]

It is also called a pilus, pilos, pileus, pileolo, subbiretum, submitrale, soli deo, berrettino, calotte or calotta.[7]


The zucchetto originated as the Greek pilos and is related to the beret (which itself was originally a large zucchetto). Clerics adopted the style circa the Early Middle Ages or earlier, to keep their heads warm[citation needed] and to insulate the tonsure.[8] The name "zucchetto" derives from its resemblance to half a pumpkin.[9] It is almost identical to the Jewish kippah or yarmulke, but typically differs in construction, with the zucchetto made of separate joined sections and color-coordinated to clerical status. The resemblance between the two types of headgear is often seen as being deliberate (a reference to the Jewish roots of Christianity), but the zucchetto is distinct from[10] and predates the skullcap style of kippah and yarmulke.[11][page needed]

Construction and design

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White zucchetto worn by popes and popes emeriti
Two bishops wearing amaranth zucchetti
Priest's black zucchetto

In Catholicism, the modern zucchetto is most commonly made of silk. The design utilises eight gores or triangular panels that are joined at the tips to form a hemispherical skullcap. Jutting from the central tip of the zucchetto is the "stem", known as stirpis or stirpes. It is made of a twisted loop of silk cord and is meant to make handling the zucchetto easier.[8] The stirpes is the primary visual distinction between the zucchetto and the Jewish kippah.[12]

The zucchetto traditionally has a lining of thin white chamois as an insulator; this is also to help keep the shape of the zucchetto.[8] Inside the trim, there is a strip of velvet to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. Most modern zucchetto designs include a cloth lining, and the contemporary trend is using ordinary synthetic cloth with a simple, natural cloth lining.[13]


The color of the zucchetto in Catholicism denotes the office held by the wearer:

Some Franciscans have adopted the practice of wearing a brown zucchetto to match their brown habit.[15]

The most common Anglican design can be similar to the Catholic zucchetto or, far more often, similar to the Jewish kippah.[16] A form of the zucchetto is worn by Anglican bishops and is used approximately like that of the Catholic Church. The Anglican "skullcap" differs from the zucchetto primarily in that it is made of six panels, bears a button at centre of the crown, and is of slightly larger dimensions. The other exception is that instead of the Catholic "church violet", Anglican churches usually (but not always) use purple caps on bishops.[citation needed]

In the Syriac Orthodox tradition, a seven-panel zucchetto called a phiro is worn by nearly all priests. It is always black and embroidered with black Orthodox crosses.[11]


All ordained men in the Latin Church of the Catholic Church are entitled to wear the black zucchetto unless promoted to a higher office, and it is worn with either the cassock or liturgical vestments, never a suit.[17] When a biretta or mitre is worn, a zucchetto is always worn underneath; hence its other names of subbirettum and submitrale.[18]

The common tradition is for the cleric to obtain the zucchetto either from an ecclesiastical tailor or a retail church supply. There is also a tradition of friends buying a newly appointed bishop his first zucchetto.[19]

A lower-ranking prelate must always doff his skullcap to a higher-ranking prelate; all prelates must remove their zucchetti in the presence of the pope, unless the pope prefers otherwise.[14][8]

The zucchetto is worn throughout most of the Mass, is removed at the commencement of the Preface, and replaced at the conclusion of Communion, when the Blessed Sacrament is put away. The zucchetto is also not worn at any occasion where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. A short zucchetto stand known as a funghellino ("little mushroom", usually made of brass or wood) can be placed near the altar to provide a safe place for the zucchetto when it is not being worn.[18]

Prelates often give away their skullcaps to the faithful. The practice, which was started in the modern era by Pope Pius XII, involves giving the zucchetto to the faithful, as a keepsake, if presented with a new one as a gift. Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have continued the custom.[20] The pope might choose not to give the visitor his own zucchetto, but rather place the gift zucchetto on his head for a moment as a blessing, then return it to the giver. Bishops, cardinals and archbishops such as Fulton J. Sheen frequently gave their old zucchettos in exchange for the newly offered one; Sheen also gave his zucchetto as a keepsake to laity who requested it.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Compare zucchini, of related origin.



  1. ^ a b "Zucchetto". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b "zucchetto" (US) and "zucchetto". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 2020-03-22.
  3. ^ a b "zucchetto". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  4. ^ (in Italian) Dizionario Treccani
  5. ^ "Definition of SOLIDEO". Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  6. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Zucchetto". Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  7. ^ Marshall 2009, pp. 11–13.
  8. ^ a b c d e Noonan, James-Charles (2012). The church visible : the ceremonial life and protocol of the Roman Catholic Church. Sterling Ethos. pp. 305–308. ISBN 978-1-4027-8730-0. OCLC 748330195. | quote = Originally introduced to protect the crown of the head bared by the tonsure, it is now worn oblivious to that need.
  9. ^ Compare: "zucchetto". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.) - from Italian zucchetta or zucchetto ("a small gourd" or "cap"); itself from zucca ("gourd" or "the head").
  10. ^ Marshall 2009, pp. 11, 13: "[...] the Pope does not actually wear a yarmulke, but a zucchetto [...]. [...] many similarities between biblical Judaism and Catholicism are incidental, as in the case of the yarmulke."
  11. ^ a b Kilgour 1958.
  12. ^ "Why Does the Pope Wear a Kippah?". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2023-03-27.
  13. ^ McCloud 1948, pp. 79–81.
  14. ^ a b McCloud 1948, pp. 79–80.
  16. ^[citation needed]
  17. ^ Emerson, Charles (September 2016). "A Short Primer on the Zucchetto" (PDF).
  18. ^ a b Braun 1912; McCloud 1948, p. 79.
  19. ^ Knox, Noelle (April 7, 2005). "Tailor pays tribute". USA Today. McLean, Virginia. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  20. ^ a b Duffy 2006.


  • Braun, Joseph (1912). "Zucchetto". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company. pp. 765–766 – via Wikisource.
  • Duffy, Eamon (2006). Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (3rd ed.). New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0.
  • Kilgour, Ruth Edwards (1958). A Pageant of Hats Ancient and Modern. New York: R. M. McBride Company.
  • Marshall, Taylor (2009). The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. The Origins of Catholicism. Vol. 1. Dallas, Texas: Saint John Press. ISBN 978-0-578-03834-6.
  • McCloud, Henry (1948). Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church. Wisconsin: Bruce Publishing Company.

Further reading