tonsure (tŏnˈshər) [key] [Lat., = to shave], formerly, practice in some Christian churches of cutting some of the hair from the scalp of clerics. In the West the tonsure consisted of a circular patch on the crown of the head from which the hair was kept cut; some tonsures kept the entire head shaved above the ears, and some retained a broad band of hair around the head. Different religious orders had different tonsures. In the 6th and 7th cent. one of the outstanding questions between the Celtic use and the Roman use was the tonsure, which the Celts made by cutting the hair off the front part of the head. The Roman Catholic Church abolished the practice of tonsure in 1972. See orders, holy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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