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A Bishop's Miter

The miter, also spelled mitre, in Orthodox Christian usage is a type of head-covering worn by certain clergy of the Orthodox Church as a part of their ceremonial dress. The word is derived from the Greek μίτρα, meaning a 'headband' or 'turban'.

A head-covering, as a mark of position of certain religious and secular officials, has a long history. In ancient Israel the Jewish high priest (Kohen Gadol) wore a headdress called the Mitznefetthat wound around the head to form a broad, flat-top topped turban. Officials of the court of the Eastern Roman Empire wore a cap called the camelaucum (Greek: καμιλαύκιον kamilaukion) that developed into the imperial crown by the ninth century. A miter in the imperial form was not use by Orthodox bishops until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Today, the typical miter in Orthodox churches is based on the imperial crown of the late Eastern Roman Empire.

The present day miter is made in the shape of a bulbous crown and may be constructed of number of materials such as brocade, damask, or cloth of gold. Embroidery may be used in its construction as well as use of jewels for decoration. The miters, while often of gold, may use other liturgical colors. Normally, there are four icons attached to the miter. These usually are icons of Jesus Christ, the Theotokos, John the Baptist, and the Cross. A cross surmounts the miter, either upright for bishop’s miters or laying flat on miters awarded to priests.

The wearing of the miter is a prerogative of bishops, but it may be awarded to archpriests, protopresbyters, and archimandrites.


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