What Is A Bishop's Hat Called

What Is A Bishop’s Hat Called?

A bishop’s hat is called a “miter.” A miter is a distinctive ceremonial headpiece worn by bishops and some other high-ranking clergy in various Christian denominations, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. 

It is usually a tall, pointed hat with two flaps or “lappets” hanging down from the back. The design and ornamentation of miters can vary depending on the specific tradition and the bishop’s rank within the church hierarchy. 

Miters are often richly decorated and can be highly symbolic in their design.

Historical Significance of the Bishop’s Mitre

Origins of the Bishop’s Mitre: 

The bishop’s mitre, also known as a bishop’s hat, has a rich history dating back to the early Christian Church. 

Its origins can be traced to ancient head coverings and headgear used by Roman officials, which were adapted for use by Christian bishops over time.

  • Roman Influences: The early bishops of the Christian Church often borrowed elements from Roman attire. The mitre may have evolved from the Roman “pilleus,” a conical cap, or the “apex,” a tall hat Roman priests wore. 
  • The adoption of such head coverings by early Christian bishops could have symbolized their spiritual authority and the idea of being shepherds of their flocks.
  • Liturgical Development: The use of the mitre in Christian liturgy became more prominent in the Middle Ages. 

By this time, the mitre had developed into a distinctive ecclesiastical headdress with the tall, pointed shape that we now associate with bishops.

Evolution of the Mitre Throughout History: 

Historical Significance of the Bishop's Mitre

The bishop’s mitre has undergone various changes in style and symbolism over the centuries.

  • Shape and Style: The mitre’s shape evolved from a simple conical cap to the distinct bifurcated or double-peaked form we recognize today. 

The two points on the mitre are often seen as symbolic of the Old and New Testaments or the dual roles of the bishop as both a teacher and a shepherd.

  • Decorative Elements: Mitre designs became increasingly ornate, featuring embroidery, precious metals, and jewels, reflecting the importance of the office of the bishop within the Church. 

The decorations on the mitre often carried theological and symbolic significance.

  • Liturgical Use: The mitre is worn during various liturgical functions, such as the celebration of the Mass and other important ceremonies. It is a symbol of the bishop’s authority and teaching role within the Church.

Theological and Symbolic Importance: 

The bishop’s mitre carries profound theological and symbolic significance within the Christian tradition.

  • Spiritual Authority: 

The mitre represents the bishop’s authority, who serves as a spiritual leader, teacher, and guide for the faithful. It symbolizes the bishop’s role as a successor to the apostles and a guardian of the Church’s teachings.

  • Shepherd’s Role:

The two points of the mitre are often seen as a representation of the bishop’s role as a shepherd of the faithful. The shepherd’s crook, or crosier, is another symbol of this pastoral duty.

  • Connection to the Old and New Testaments: 

The two points of the mitre are sometimes interpreted as a connection to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, symbolizing the bishop’s responsibility to teach and uphold the entire Christian faith, which encompasses both the Old and New Covenants.

  • Liturgical Splendor: 

The ornate decoration of the mitre reflects the beauty and majesty of the Church’s worship. It is a symbol of the bishop’s responsibility to lead the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacred rites.

In summary, the bishop’s mitre has a historical evolution from Roman influences to its present form, serving as a symbol of the bishop’s spiritual authority, pastoral role, and connection to the teachings of the Church. 

It holds a significant place within Christian liturgy and tradition.

Design and Symbolism of the Bishop’s Mitre

Description of the Typical Mitre’s Design: 

The typical bishop’s mitre has a distinctive design characterized by the following features:

  • Bifurcated Shape: The mitre has a tall, pointed shape with two distinct peaks or points, one in the front and one in the back. 
  • This shape is often likened to a folded or creased cloth, and it is one of the most recognizable aspects of the mitre’s design.
  • Base and Band: The base of the mitre encircles the head and is often made of fabric. A band or strip, sometimes called the “infula,” extends from the base down the back of the mitre. This band may be adorned with decorative elements.
  • Decorative Elements: Miters are typically decorated with various symbols, images, and colors, which carry specific theological and symbolic meanings.

These decorations can include embroidery, crosses, precious metals, jewels, and other ornamental elements.

Symbolism Behind the Various Elements and Colors: 

The design of the bishop’s mitre is laden with symbolism, with different elements and colors representing various aspects of the bishop’s role and the Christian faith:

Points (Front and Back):

  • Symbolize the bishop’s authority and responsibility in both teaching and shepherding the faithful.
  • May represent the dual role of the bishop as a guardian of both the Old and New Testaments.


  • Crosses are often present on the mitre, representing the central Christian symbol of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Remind the bishop and the faithful of the Christian faith’s foundational event.

Decorative Elements:

  • Embroidery, precious metals, and jewels are added to the mitre to convey the magnificence and spiritual significance of the office of the bishop.
  • These elements can also symbolize the richness of the Christian tradition and the beauty of the faith.


The colors used on the mitre can have specific meanings:

  • White: Symbolizes purity, light, and the resurrection.
  • Red: Represents the Holy Spirit and the martyrdom of saints.
  • Green: Signifies hope, growth, and the renewal of faith.
  • Gold: Reflects the majesty and glory of God.
  • Purple: Suggests penitence and preparation during liturgical seasons like Lent.

Other colors may be used to align with particular liturgical seasons or feasts.

How the Design Can Vary Among Different Christian Denominations: 

The design of the bishop’s mitre can vary among different Christian denominations, reflecting their distinct traditions and interpretations. Here are a few examples of variation:

Roman Catholicism: In the Roman Catholic Church, mitres are often highly ornate and may include more intricate decorations and the use of specific colors. 

The papal tiara, a three-tiered crown, was historically worn by the Pope in addition to the mitre but is no longer in common use.

Eastern Orthodoxy: The Eastern Orthodox mitre is typically simpler in design compared to its Western counterparts. 

It usually has a pointed shape but is often unadorned or has minimal decorations. The color of the mitre can vary based on the liturgical season.

Anglicanism: Anglican miters can vary widely in design, with some being more similar to Roman Catholic miters, while others may be simpler. 

The color and design can depend on the individual Anglican tradition or church.

Other Christian Denominations: Various Protestant denominations may have bishops who wear miters with designs and symbolism that align with their specific beliefs and practices.

In conclusion, the bishop’s mitre features a distinct design with rich symbolism, and its design can vary among different Christian denominations, reflecting their unique traditions and interpretations of its significance.

Ritual and Ceremonial Use of the Bishop’s Mitre

When and Why Bishops Wear the Mitre: 

Bishops wear the mitre during specific religious and liturgical occasions for several reasons:

  • Liturgical Symbol: The mitre is a symbol of the bishop’s spiritual authority and his role as a teacher and shepherd of the Church. It serves as a visual reminder of the bishop’s ecclesiastical office.
  • Authority and Teaching: The two points of the mitre are symbolic of the bishop’s dual role as a guardian and proclaimer of the faith, representing the Old and New Testaments. 

It signifies the bishop’s authority to interpret and teach the Word of God.

  • Sign of Special Office: The mitre distinguishes the bishop from other clergies, indicating his unique pastoral and administrative responsibilities within the diocese.

Specific Occasions and Rituals Involving the Mitre: 

The mitre is worn during various religious and ceremonial occasions, including:

  • Celebration of the Mass: Bishops wear the mitre when celebrating the Eucharist (Mass). It signifies their role as the chief celebrant and teacher of the faith.
  • Sacraments: Bishops also wear the mitre during the administration of sacraments such as confirmation and ordination, signifying their authority and responsibility in these rites.
  • Liturgical Processions: During processions within the church, bishops may wear the mitre, especially when carrying the Eucharist in the monstrance, as a mark of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Ordinations: The mitre is commonly worn during the ordination of priests and deacons, emphasizing the bishop’s role as the consecrator and spiritual guide for those being ordained.
  • Episcopal Consecrations: In the consecration of new bishops, the mitre is used as part of the ritual to symbolize the transmission of the bishop’s authority from the consecrating bishops.
  • Special Liturgical Seasons and Feasts: Bishops may wear mitres of different colors to align with specific liturgical seasons, such as using purple during Lent, red on Pentecost, and white during festive occasions like Christmas and Easter.

The Role of the Mitre in Liturgy: 

The mitre plays a significant role in the liturgical and ceremonial life of the Church:

  • Symbol of Leadership: When the bishop wears the mitre, it symbolizes his leadership and authority in guiding the faithful. It serves as a visible reminder of his pastoral duty.
  • Teaching and Proclamation: As a symbol of the bishop’s teaching role, the mitre emphasizes the importance of the Word of God in Christian worship. It underscores the bishop’s responsibility to interpret and proclaim the Gospel.
  • Elevation of the Sacred: The mitre is used to handle the Blessed Sacrament and other sacred objects during liturgical processions, signifying the bishop’s role in elevating and preserving the holiness of these elements.
  • Connection to Tradition: The mitre’s design and symbolism connect the bishop to centuries of Christian tradition, reinforcing the continuity of the faith.

In summary, bishops wear the mitre during specific liturgical and ceremonial occasions to symbolize their spiritual authority, teaching role, and pastoral responsibility within the Church. 

The mitre plays a vital role in highlighting the bishop’s leadership and connection to the Christian tradition in the context of the liturgy.

Variations Across Christian Denominations in the Use of the Bishop’s Mitre

Variations Across Christian Denominations in the Use of the Bishop's Mitre

Contrasts between Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Miters:

Roman Catholic Miters:

  • Roman Catholic miters are often highly ornate and richly decorated, reflecting the emphasis on the majesty and splendor of the liturgy.
  • They can be adorned with intricate embroidery, precious metals, and precious stones, further emphasizing the bishop’s authority and the solemnity of Roman Catholic liturgical practices.
  • The papal tiara, while no longer commonly used, was historically worn by the Pope in addition to the mitre, signifying the highest office in the Roman Catholic Church.

Eastern Orthodox Mitres:

  • Eastern Orthodox miters, in contrast, tend to be simpler in design and decoration. They are typically unadorned or have minimal decorations.
  • The shape is usually a pointed crown with a simple cross on the front, emphasizing the humility and simplicity of the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
  • Eastern Orthodox miters reflect the emphasis on tradition and the spiritual aspects of the office of bishop.

Anglican Miters:

  • Anglican miters can vary widely, reflecting the diversity within the Anglican Communion. 

Some Anglican bishops may wear similar meters to Roman Catholic miters in terms of design and decoration, while others may choose simpler and less ornate designs.

  • The choice of mitre design can depend on individual Anglican traditions and theological perspectives, with a broad range of practices within the Anglican Communion.

Regional Differences in Mitre Design and Use:

  • Latin America: In Latin American Catholic traditions, you may find mitres with unique regional characteristics and designs. 

These can incorporate indigenous symbols and materials, reflecting the cultural diversity of the region.

  • Eastern Christianity: Within Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions, there may be variations in mitre design and ornamentation based on regional influences. 

For example, the design of a Greek Orthodox mitre may differ from that of a Russian Orthodox mitre.

  • Anglican Communion: The use of miters can vary among different provinces within the Anglican Communion. 

Some Anglican bishops may choose to wear simpler and less ornate miters, while others may opt for more elaborate designs.

Unique Characteristics in Non-Catholic Traditions:

Oriental Orthodox Churches: The meters used in the Oriental Orthodox traditions, such as the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, can have their own unique designs and regional variations, distinct from Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

Protestant Traditions: In many Protestant denominations, especially those without a historic episcopate, bishops are rare, and the use of miters is even rarer.

When they are worn, the design can be quite different from those in the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican traditions. These miters may have a simpler and more functional design, reflecting Protestant theology and practices.

In summary, variations in the design and use of the bishop’s mitre exist among different Christian denominations, reflecting theological, cultural, and regional differences. 


What is a bishop’s hat called?

A bishop’s hat is called a “mitre.”

Why do bishops wear miters?

Bishops wear miters as a symbol of their authority and as a sign of their role as shepherds of the church. It also holds religious and historical significance.

What is the history of the mitre?

The mitre has a long history dating back to ancient times. It evolved from a type of head covering worn by Roman officials and eventually became a distinctive part of the bishop’s attire.

What is the significance of the design of a mitre?

The design of a mitre typically features a pointed shape with lappets at the back. The elements and colors of the design often have symbolic meaning, representing various aspects of the bishop’s role and the church’s teachings.

Do all bishops wear the same type of mitre?

No, the design of miters can vary among different Christian denominations and regions. Each tradition may have its own unique style and design.

When do bishops wear miters during religious ceremonies?

Bishops typically wear miters during certain liturgical or ceremonial moments, such as during the celebration of the Mass, during processions, or when delivering blessings.

Can priests or other clergy members wear miters?

Miters are generally reserved for bishops and, in some cases, archbishops. Priests and lower-ranking clergy typically do not wear mitres.

What materials are Miters made from?

Miters can be made from various materials, including silk, satin, or other fine fabrics. They are often adorned with decorative elements like embroidery, lace, and precious metals.

Are miters still relevant in modern church practices?

Yes, miters continue to be an important part of the ceremonial attire of bishops in many Christian traditions. They hold both historical and symbolic significance.

Are there any rules or regulations governing the use of miters in the church?

No, there are no universal rules or regulations governing the use of miters in the Christian Church. The design and use of miters vary among Christian denominations and local customs.

Can women become bishops and wear miters?

In some Christian denominations, women can become bishops and wear miters, but this depends on the specific policies and practices of each denomination. 

The acceptance of female bishops varies across different branches of Christianity.


In conclusion, the bishop’s mitre is a symbol of profound historical, theological, and liturgical significance within the Christian tradition. 

Its design and symbolism have evolved over time, reflecting the authority, pastoral role, and connection to the teachings of the Church. 

The mitre is worn during specific religious and ceremonial occasions, emphasizing the bishop’s leadership and teaching responsibilities. 

While the basic design remains consistent, variations in mitre design exist across Christian denominations, ranging from the ornate miters of the Roman Catholic Church to the simpler designs of the Eastern Orthodox tradition and the diverse practices within the Anglican Communion.