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Why Do The Monks Wear Black?

by Q&A 4,493 views2

St Shenouda Monastery

Why Do the Monks wear Black?

It has been recorded in the monastic literature such as the (Historia Monachorum) that the community of monks that gathered around abba Apollo looked like an “army of angels, drawn up in perfect order, robed in white.” It also says about abba Or that the monks lived with him were “roped in white like the choirs of the Just.” Around the ninth century, another text which records the history of the Coptic Patriarchs up until the thirteenth century commonly known as (The History of the Patriarchs) records that in the ninth century, the Muslim ruler al-Hakim ordered that the Christians “should have a belt fastened round their waists and that they should wear black turbans on their heads… and that they should wear crosses a span in length, then he ordered again to make the crosses a cubit and a half in length.” Again in the eleventh century under another Muslim ruler, a decree was written saying that “all the Christians should fasten round them black girdles that they might be distinguished.” Ever since the Monks and priests kept wearing black gowns as a sign of remembrance of their persecution.

Comments (2)

  1. This article only addresses the black belt (girdle is a belt) and turban.
    Do orthodox priests still wear the belt?
    What is the origin of the black gown?
    Why do all orthodox priests, oriental and eastern, dress in black, when since the 5th century we have been in schism? Was this decree made all over the Muslim empire or only in Egypt?

    1. That is correct Paul, it seems that it was a policy across the Muslim world to single out Christians, and don’t forget that Constantinople and Greece also had their fare share of the Ottoman and Turkish rule.

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