The zucchetto, although quite similar to the Jewish kippah, is in fact a descendant of the the Greek pilos, a brimless felt cap. Hence, it is a cousin of the beret. Meaning “little pumpkin” in Italian, it was in use in the early Middle Ages, basically to keep the clerics’ heads warm. The color of the zucchetto denotes the wearer's rank: the pope’s zucchetto is white; cardinals wear scarlet; archbishops and bishops wear rose-red amaranth; priests and deacons wear black; and ordained Franciscan friars wear brown.

Capello Romano

Also known as “Saturno” because of its appearance reminiscent of the ringed planet, it is a hat with a wide, circular brim and a rounded crown, which serves no ceremonial purpose: it is a practical item. It is quite uncommon today, even in Rome. Only the Pope can wear a red Saturno: cardinals and other clerics should wear a black one.

The Miter

This is the traditional headgear used by bishops. The word comes from the Greek “mitra,” and initially referred to a sort of headband used by those who were victorious at the games. The conic/pointy section of the miter was originally a cap used by officials in the Byzantine court, but by the 12th century its use was already spread throughout Western Europe.


Still a symbol of the papacy, it was last used by Pope Paul VI in 1963. Also known as “triregnum,” it was a crown used by Catholic popes. Its three levels were commonly associated with either the threefold office of Christ (priest, prophet, and king, the pope being Christ’s vicar) or to with pope being the servant of the three churches: the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. It was not a liturgical item, but one mostly used for ceremonial processions. Up until the late Middle Ages, tiaras and miters looked almost exactly the same.


In use already in the 10th century, this hat is of uncertain origin. Some claim it evolved from the academic cap of the high Middle Ages. In fact, the four-peaked biretta is worn as part of academic regalia by those who hold a doctoral degree granted by a Pontifical University. All members of the clergy can use it (even seminarians) but the pope does not.


The Qob, very much like the Greek kolpal, is the Ethiopian equivalent of the Roman biretta.


Being part of the papal wardrobe since the 12th century, it fell into disuse after the death of Pope John XXIII and was only used once by Benedict XVI in December 2005. From the Greek “kamelauchion” (meaning “camel skin hat”), it was usually worn in winter instead of the zucchetto.

And, very important, motorbike helmets.

This handout picture released by the Vatican Press Office on March 23, 2015, shows Pope Francis wearing a motorbike helmet bearing the Neapolitan motto, " A Maronna t' accompagni " (The Virgin will be with you ), after a Mass at the Piazza del Plebiscito on March 21, 2015, in Naples.