Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
They are made of coarse cloth, generally woven from goats' hair, and are worn close to the skin to practice mortification and penance or to show contrition for sins. They have also been worn to show distance from temptations of the flesh and ostentatious luxury. It is known that they have been worn by ascetics, monks, and lay persons.
Why are they worn?
- Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.
The Latin word for hairshirt is cilicium, and the reputed first Scriptural use of the term in the Latin scriptures is in the Vulgate of Psalm 35:13, "Ego autem, cum mihi molesti essent, induebar cilicio." ( "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth." in the King James Bible — this is from The Catholic Encyclopedia referenced below). This is translated as hair-cloth in the Douay Bible, and as sackcloth in the Anglican Authorized Version and the Book of Common Prayer.
St. John the Baptist wore a garment of camels' hair that was likely a hairshirt, Thomas Beckett was wearing one when he was murdered, St. Patrick reputably wore one, Charlemagne was buried in a hairshirt, and Henry IV famously wore one in the Walk to Canossa during the Investiture Controversy.
Ties to the word Sackcloth
External links and references
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