The zucchetto with a plural of zucchetti, Italian for ‘small gourd’, also known as pileolus in Latin, is a small skullcap worn by clerics of the Roman Catholic Church and sometimes within Anglicanism and Lutheranism.
It was first adopted for practical reasons to keep the clergy’s tonsured heads warm in cold, damp churches and has survived as a traditional item of dress. It consists of eight panels sewn together, with a stem at the top. Its name may derive from its resemblance to half of a pumpkin. Its appearance is similar to the Jewish Kippah.
All ordained members of the Roman Catholic Church are entitled to wear the zucchetto. The colour of the zucchetto denotes the wearer’s rank: the Pope’s zucchetto is white, cardinals are red or scarlet, and those of bishops, territorial abbots and territorial prelates are purple. Priests and deacons wear a black zucchetto. A white zucchetto is worn by Premonstratensian prelates. A brown zucchetto-like garment and similar black skullcap is sometimes worn by Franciscan friars and Benedictine or Trappist monks respectively.
The late Pope John Paul II often gave guests the zucchetto he was wearing as a keepsake if presented with a new one as a gift. Pope Benedict XVI has continued with the practice.
The zucchetto is worn by some Anglican bishops, and is used according to the same practice as that of the Roman Catholic Church.