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A guide to recognizing religious and monastic habits at first sight


WITT Pierre | Hemis | AFP

Caroline Becker - published on 11/28/19

Even if the habit does not make the monk, it can surely help you identify the order he belongs to.

Religious habits (most of them consisting of a tunic covered by a scapular and a cowl) come in many different colors. How can we tell a Benedictine from a Franciscan, or a Dominican from a Carthusian? We will give you the answer, in images.

Brown, black, white, or black tunics; leather belts or ropes; pointed or rounded hoods… sometimes it might be just a bit too difficult to clearly identify what kind of a monk or a friar has just crossed your path. Even if most of the major religious orders (Benedictines, Cistercians, Carmelites, Franciscans, or Dominicans) often wear very distinctive clothes, they may also share some main common traces. These traces can be explained by either their geographical location (it is known Benedictines, for instance, who always wear black, tend to use white tunics in hot climates and regions), but also by the different devotions and charismas of each religious community. But even if habits are different, and their colors and shapes change, they all point at one single thing: a person’s decision to renounce the world and embrace a life of service.

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