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The legislation requiring the beard to be shaved seems to have remained in force throughout the Middle Ages .Thus an ordinance of the Council of Toulouse, in 1119, threatened with excommunication the clerics who "like a layman allowed hair and beard to grow", and Pope Alexander III ordained that clerics who nourished their hair and beard were to be shorn by their archdeacon, by force if necessary. Durandus, finding mystical reasons for everything, according to his wont, tells us that "length of hair is symbolical of the multitude of sins.In the case of religious orders like the Capuchins and the Camaldolese Hermits the wearing of a beard is prescribed in their constitutions as a mark of austerity and penance.Individual priests who for medical or other reasons desire to exempt themselves from the law require the permission of their bishop. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online.Among the Jews, as among most Oriental peoples, the beard was especially cherished as a symbol of virility; to cut off another man's beard was an outrage ( 2 Samuel 10:4 ); to shave or to pluck one's own beard was a sign of mourning ( Jeremiah 41:5 ; ); to allow the beard to be defiled constituted a presumption of madness ( 1 Samuel ).Certain ceremonial cuttings of the beard which probably imitated pagan superstition were strictly forbidden ( Leviticus 14:9 ).After his death there broke out a long series of sanguinary conflicts, partly religious and partly politico-commercial, resulting in the overthrow of Spanish and the substitution of Austrian domination (1599) whereby the southern or Catholic provinces of the Low Countries were enabled to preserve their faith, though at a great price from a commercial standpoint.
But as Ratramnus of Corbie protested, it was foolish to make an outcry about a matter which concerned salvation so little as this barbæ detonsio aut conservatio.This last decree was incorporated in the text of the canon law (Decretals of Gregory IX, III, tit. Hence clerics are directed to shave their beards; for the cutting of the hair of the beard, which is said to be nourished by the superfluous humours of the stomach, denotes that we ought to cut away the vices and sins which are a superfluous growth in us.Hence we shave our beards that we may seem purified by innocence and humility and that we may be like the angels who remain always in the bloom of youth." (Rationale, II, lib.The Apostles, in our most ancient monuments, are for the most part represented as bearded, but not uniformly so.(See Weiss-Liebersdorff, Christus- und Apostelbilder, Freiburg, 1902.) St. There it enjoined that a cleric is to allow neither hair nor beard to grow freely ( Clericus nec comam nutriat nec barbam ) though this prohibition is very probably directed only against beards of excessive length.