Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tonsure

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TONSURE.The reception of the tonsure, in the Roman Catholic Church, is the initial ceremony which marks admission to orders and to the rights and privileges of clerical standing. It is administered by the bishop with an appropriate ritual. Candidates for the rite must have been confirmed, be adequately instructed in the elements of the Christian faith, and be able to read and write. Those who have received it are bound (unless in exceptional circumstances) to renew the mark, consisting of a bare circle on the crown of the head, at least once a month, otherwise they forfeit the privileges it carries. A very early origin has sometimes been claimed for the tonsure, but the earliest instance of an ecclesiastical precept on the subject occurs in can. 41 of the council of Toledo (633 A.D.): " omnes clerici, detonso superius capite toto, inferius solam circuli coronam relinquant." Can. 33 of the Quinisext council (692) requires even singers and readers to be tonsured. Since the 8th century three tonsures have been more or less in use, known respectively as the Roman,