MITRE, a liturgical head-dress of the historic churches, gen erally proper to bishops. The word is derived through the Latin from the Greek pirpa, a head-band or head-dress.
In the Roman Catholic Church its actual form is that of a sort of folding cap consisting of two halves which, when not worn, lie flat upon each other. These sides are stiffened, and when the mitre is worn, they rise in front and behind like two horns pointed at the tips. From the lower rim of the mitre at the back hang two bands (infulae), terminating in fringes. In the Roman Catholic Church mitres are divided into three classes : Mitra pretiosa, decorated with jewels, gold plates, etc.; (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 head-dress 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. Bishops alone, including of course the pope and his cardinals, are entitled to wear the pretiosa and auriphrygiata; the others wear the mitra simplex.
The first trustworthy notice of its use is under Pope Leo IX. (1049-54). This pope invested Archbishop Eberhard of Trier, who had accompanied him to Rome, with the Roman mitra, telling him that he and his successors should wear it in ecclesiastic° officio (i.e., as a liturgical ornament) according to Roman custom,
in order to remind him that he is a disciple of the Roman see (Jaffe, Regesta pont. roin., ed. Leipzig, i888, No. 4158).
From Leo IX.'s time papal grants of the mitre to eminent prel ates became increasingly frequent, and by the 12th century it had been assumed by all bishops in the west, with or without papal sanction, as their proper liturgical head-dress. From the 12th century, too, dates the custom of investing the bishop with the mitre at his consecration.
It was not till the 12th century that the mitre came to be re garded a s specifically episcopal, and meanwhile the custom had grown up of granting it honoris cause to other dignitaries besides bishops. (See ABBOT. ) Mitres were also sometimes bestowed by the popes on secular sovereigns. In the coronation of the emperor, more particularly, the mitre played a part. According to the 14th Roman ordo, of 1241, the pope places on the emperor's head first the mitre cleri calis, then the imperial diadem.