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(tŏn`shər) [Lat.,=to shave], formerly, practice in some Christian churches of cutting some of the hair from the scalp of clerics. In the West the tonsure consisted of a circular patch on the crown of the head from which the hair was kept cut; some tonsures kept the entire head shaved above the ears, and some retained a broad band of hair around the head. Different religious orders had different tonsures. In the 6th and 7th cent. one of the outstanding questions between the Celtic use and the Roman use was the tonsure, which the Celts made by cutting the hair off the front part of the head. The Roman Catholic Church abolished the practice of tonsure in 1972. See orders, holyorders, holy
[Lat. ordo,=rank], in Christianity, the traditional degrees of the clergy, conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Order. The episcopacy, priesthood or presbyterate, and diaconate were in general use in Christian churches in the 2d cent.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a church ritual in Christianity. The rite of tonsure is performed upon admission into the clerical or monastic state. It was adopted from the custom of cropping the hair of slaves in Rome and Greece and symbolizes “enslavement to god.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The unsubmerged halves of the smooth stones at the water's edge--covered with patches of dark moss--looked like the tonsured heads of drowned monks.
Does a person even have to be tonsured to be considered a monk or a nun?
This tonsured nobility was not in itself perverse, or a "dangerous class," but rather its behavior took no account of the ecclesiastical status.
Scion of a prominent family, he was tonsured and given an abbacy at eighteen; but there followed an obscure period in his life, which included a period in a Venetian prison.
by Cyril's tonsured hounds, with a fanatical gang at their heels," of such a young and lovely paragon of pre-Enlightenment rational thought.
Yet in his account Clare's steadfast faith is victorious: her relatives retreat when she unveils her tonsured head as proof of her resolve, whereupon she founds the first house of Franciscan nuns at Assisi.
On the Sundays, ham toasted itself with lipid melts, the honey veneer waxed pork conceit to unnameable lustre and humps of rump poked through the center of pineapple slices so as to form tonsured clerical heads, the Sundays being exceptional.
As if I were a somber figure in a religious painting, tonsured and robed, laboring in an allegorical garden, a simple man who had never seen a cough drop or a golf club or the spectacle of bees in cartoons dive-bombing some hopeless dog gardening below, aviator's caps snug on their heads, their little faces fired with resentment.
In the first incident, a Muslim woman and her daughter who fought off a gang of sexual assailants were beaten up, tonsured and paraded through the streets.
Summary: Bihar [India], June 27 (ANI): The Women Commission of Bihar on Thursday took cognizance of the Bhagwanpur incident wherein heads of a woman and her daughter were tonsured by a group of men in Bihar's Vaishali allegedly after they protested a molestation attempt.
In another incident, the faces of teenaged lovers were blackened, their heads tonsured and they were thrashed in full public view in Gorakhpur district in June.