The Archbishop of Pisa Mons. Giovanni Paolo Benotto was in Barga this week to confer on three local priests the order of canons of the Duomo of Barga.
As the three are already members of the collegiata del Duomo di Barga (from late Latin collegiatus, from collegium ‘partnership’ ) they can be given the title of Canon by the Archbishop although recently changes brought in by the new Pope have almost abolished the order.
Cathedral canons, who, attached to the cathedral church, form the senate or council of the bishop; collegiate canons, who perform the canonical office in the church to which they are attached, but are not connected by reason of their office with the government of the diocese.
Regular canons, as forming the council of the bishop, are now almost obsolete, and the special regulations by which they are bound, their rights, privileges, and duties, are treated fully in works on canon law
The Council of Trent says that since the dignitaries of the cathedral were instituted to preserve and increase ecclesiastical discipline it is necessary that those who are appointed should excel in piety and be an example to others; likewise, as they are to assist the bishop in his office and work, only those should be appointed who are able to fulfil the canonical duties.
The requisite qualifications are: legitimate birth, proper age, Sacred orders, fitting education, skill in Gregorian chant, known good character and repute. Moreover the council lays down that without these qualifications the appointment is of no effect. Before the candidate is admitted to his canonry not only the one who appoints but also the chapter has the right to examine and inquire whether the necessary qualities are present in the candidate.
There was a small moment of tension during the ceremony when Don Silvio Baldisseri moved across the Duomo to the microphone to tell the congregation that he would not be wearing one of the three Beretta’s waiting for the new appointed Canons.
The three hats remained behind the scenes and were not used in the ceremony.
A square cap with three ridges or peaks on its upper surface, worn by clerics of all grades from cardinals downwards. The use of such a cap is prescribed by the rubrics both at solemn Mass and in other ecclesiastical functions.
We hear of the birettum in the tenth century, but, like most other questions of costume, the history is extremely perplexed. The wearing of any head-covering, other than hood or cowl, on state occasions within doors seems to have originally been a distinction reserved for the privileged few.
At first the birettum was a kind of skull-cap with a small tuft, but it developed into a soft round cap easily indented by the fingers in putting it on and off, and it acquired in this way the rudimentary outline of its present three peaks.
The privilege of wearing some such head-dress was extended in the course of the sixteenth century to the lower grades of the clergy, and after a while the chief distinction became one of colour, the cardinals always wearing red birettas, and bishops violet.
The shape during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was everywhere considerably modified. Even at the present day birettas vary considerably in shape.
Those worn by the French, German, and Spanish clergy as a rule have four peaks instead of three; while Roman custom prescribes that a cardinal’s biretta should have no tassel.