For the last 200 years there has been no change, and an attempt made by some of the clergy of Bavaria in 1865 to introduce the wearing of beards was rebuked by the Holy See.
A cleric was known as a shorn man ( bescoren man , Laws of Wihtred, A. 96), and if it should seem that this might refer to the tonsure, we have a law of King Alfred : "If a man shave off another's beard let him make amends with twenty shillings.
If he bind him first and then shave him like a priest ( hine to preoste bescire ) let him make amends with sixty shillings." And under Edgar we find the canon: "Let no man in holy orders conceal his tonsure, nor let himself be misshaven nor keep his beard for any time, if he will have God's blessing and St.
Jerome seems to censure the practice of wearing long beards, but no very definite conclusion can be drawn from his allusions or from those of his contemporary, St. The positive legislation on the subject for clerics appears to be Canon 44 of the so-called Fourth of Carthage, which in reality represents the synodal decrees of some council in Southern Gaul in the time of St. Still this canon, which was widely quoted and is included in the "Corpus juris" had great influence in creating a precedent.
(See for example the "Penitential" of Halitgar and the so-called "Excerptions" attributed to Egbert of York.) So far as concerns England in particular it was certainly regarded throughout the Middle Ages as uncanonical to allow the beard to grow.
There are still many ordinances of episcopal synods which deal with the subject, but the point upon which stress is laid is that the clergy "should not seem to be aping the fashions of military folk" or wearing flowing beards like goats ( hircorum et caprarum more ), or allowing the hair on their upper lip to impede their drinking of the chalice.
This last has always been accounted a solid reason in favour of the practice of shaving.
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