How Changing the Tonsure Hairstyle for Monks Led to Great Discord in the Early Years of the Catholic Church

In a pileous video essay for Vox, correspondent Phil Edwards takes a look at the history of the distinct, religious haircut worn by monks, which is called a tonsure. Helping Edwards speak to this point is Daniel McCarthy, Fellow Emeritus at Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland, who is very much an expert on this subject matter. The two explain how by changing the round Roman tonsure into a triangular one, the Celtic Catholics caused a great deal of discord within the burgeoning church.

Known as “tonsure,” the typical monk hairstyle has many variations throughout religions. The particular hairstyle worn by Christian monks has its own variations and controversies as well. Three different types of tonsure were popular: a coronal tonsure, a Pauline tonsure, and a third Celtic tonsure that came to represent the differences between the Roman Catholic and Celtic Catholic church.