In the Roman Catholic Church mitres are divided into three classes: (1) Mitra pretiosa, decorated with jewels, gold plates, &c.; (2) Mitra auriphrygiata, of white silk, sometimes embroidered with gold and silver thread or small pearls, or of cloth of gold plain; (3) Mitra simplex, of white silk damask, silk or linen, with the two falling bands behind terminating in red fringes.
Mitres are the distinctive headdress of bishops; but the right to wear them, as in the case of the other episcopal insignia, is granted by the popes to other dignitaries - such as abbots or the heads and sometimes all the members of the chapters of cathedral or collegiate churches.
At general councils bishops wear white linen mitres, cardinals mitres of white silk damask; this is also the case when bishops and cardinals in pontificalibus assist at a solemn pontifical function presided over by the pope.
The papal bulls granting the use of mitres before the nth century are all forgeries (Liturgische Gewandung, 431-448).
From this time onward papal bulls bestowing mitres, together with other episcopal insignia, on abbots become increasingly frequent.
The original motive of the recipients of these favours was doubtless the taste of the time for outward display; St Bernard, zealous for the monastic ideal, de nounced abbots for wearing mitres and the like more pontificum, and Peter the Cantor roundly called the abbatial mitre " inane, superfluous and puerile " (Verb.
Mitres were also sometimes bestowed by the popes on secular sovereigns, e.g.
Mitres with horns on either side seem to have been worn till about the end of the 12th century, and Father Braun gives examples of their appearances on episcopal seals in France until far into the 13th.
The decoration of mitres was characterized by increasing elaboration as time went on.
Of the surviving early mitres the greater number have only the orphrey embroidered, the body of the mitre being left plain.
- In most of the reformed Churches the use of mitres was abandoned with that of the other vestments.
In the course of the rejoicings which followed this sentence among the populace of Pisa, occurred the somewhat scandalous event of the burning of two images crowned with parchment mitres, representing Gregory XII.
Thus the mitre over an English bishop's coat-of-arms is a survival which indicates him as the successor of bishops who actually wore mitres, while armorial bearings themselves, and the whole craft of heraldry, are survivals bearing record of a state of warfare and social order whence our present state was by vast modification evolved.
It has been maintained that the right to wear mitres was sometimes granted by the popes to abbots before the 11th century, but the documents on which this claim is based are not genuine (J.