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Title: Cowl
Original Title: Capuchon
Volume and Page: Vol. 2 (1752), p. 640
Author: Denis Diderot
Translator: Nelly S. Hoyt; Thomas Cassirer
Subject terms:
Ecclesiastical history
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Source: Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer, trans., The Encyclopedia: Selections: Diderot, d'Alembert and a Society of Men of Letters (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965).
Availability:

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America.

URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.146
Citation (MLA): Diderot, Denis. "Cowl." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.146>. Trans. of "Capuchon," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 2. Paris, 1752.
Citation (Chicago): Diderot, Denis. "Cowl." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2003. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.146 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Capuchon," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 2:640 (Paris, 1752).

This article, with its cross reference to "Grey Friars" (Cordeliers) is the classic example of the satirical cross reference of which Diderot speaks in his article Encyclopédie (cf. Introduction.) The respect shown toward the Franciscans in one article is destroyed by the hostility expressed in the other. [Translator note]


Cowl. Type of robe used by the followers of St. Bernard, the Benedictines, etc. There are two kinds of cowls, one white and very full, used on ceremonial occasions; the other black, which is part of the ordinary habit.

Father Mabillon claims that originally the cowl was the same thing as the scapular. But the author of the Apologia for Emperor Henry IV distinguishes two types of cowls; [1] one was really a robe that reached from the head down to the feet, with sleeves, worn on special occasions, the other was a kind of hood, for every day. The latter is properly called scapular, because it covers only the head and the shoulders. See Scapular ( Scapulaire ).

Cowl is also commonly used to designate a rough piece of cloth, cut and sewn together in a conical shape, or rounded at one end, which the Capuchins, the Recollects, the Franciscans, and other mendicant orders use as a head covering.

The cowl was once the cause of a major war among the Franciscans. The order split into two factions, the spiritual friars and the conventuals. One group wanted a narrow cowl, the other a wide one. The quarrel lasted more than a century and was fought with a great deal of heat and animosity. Four papal bulls, issued by Nicolas IV, Clement V, John XXII, and Benedict XII, were barely able to put an end to the quarrel. Today the members of the order can only recall this dispute with the utmost contempt.

Nevertheless, if anyone should venture today to treat the thought of Scotus as it deserves, such an aggressor would have a lively fight on his hands and become the object of a great many insults, even though the qualities of the clever doctor are even less important than the shape of his disciples' hoods.

Could not, however, a Grey Friar endowed with common sense say with good reason to the others: "It seems to me, fathers, that we are making a good deal of noise for nothing; our insults will not improve Scotus' quibbling. If we wait until sound philosophy, which is spreading its light everywhere, has penetrated into our cloisters, then maybe we shall come to consider the dreams of our doctor as ridiculous as the stubbornness of our predecessors about the size of our cowls." See articles Grey Friars (Cordeliers) , and Scotism (Scotisme) .

Notes

1. This probably refers to the editor, Melchior von Haimenfeld, who wrote under the pseudonym of Goldast. A Swiss historian (1578–1635), he wrote mainly about the ecclesiastical history of the Holy Roman Empire. The work referred to here is Apologiae pro Henrico IV Imp. adversus Gregorii VII papae ... Criminationes (Hanover, 1611).