AskDefine | Define crosier

Dictionary Definition

crosier n : a staff surmounted by a crook or cross carried by bishops as a symbol of pastoral office [syn: crozier]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  • a RP /ˈkrəʊziə/|/ˈkrəʊʒə/
  • a US /ˈkroʊʒɚ/


  1. A staff with a hooked end similar to a shepherd's crook, or with a cross at the end, carried by an abbot, bishop, or archbishop as a symbol of office.
  2. : A young fern frond, before it has unrolled; fiddlehead



Extensive Definition

A crosier (crozier, pastoral staff, paterissa, pósokh) is the stylized staff of office (pastoral staff) carried by high-ranking Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran and Pentecostal prelates. The other typical insignia of most of these prelates, but not all, are the mitre and the episcopal ring.

Symbol of office

The crosier is the symbol of the governing office of the Bishop.

Western Christianity

In Western Christianity, the crozier is shaped like a shepherd's crook. A bishop bears this staff as "shepherd of the flock of God", i.e., particularly the community under his canonical jurisdiction, but any bishop, whether or not assigned to a functional diocese, also uses a crosier when conferring sacraments and presiding at liturgies. The bishop usually holds his crozier with his left hand, leaving his right hand free to bestow blessings. In some Western churches, when the bishop is inside his own diocese, he holds the crozier facing away from him; when he is outside his own diocese, he holds the crozier facing inward. The crozier may also be carried in procession by an altar server known as the "crozier bearer". On very formal occasions, crozier bearer will wear a shawl-like veil around his shoulders called a vimpa when holding the crozier. The vimpa is used to hold the crozier so he doesn't touch it with his bare hands.
The crosier is conferred upon a bishop during his ordination to the episcopacy. It is also presented to an abbot at his blessing (installation), an ancient custom symbolizing his shepherding of the monastic community. Although there is no provision in the liturgy of the blessing of an abbess for the presentation of a crosier, by long-standing custom an abbess may bear one when leading her community of nuns.
The crosier is used in ecclesiastical heraldry to represent pastoral authority in the coats of arms of cardinals, bishops, abbots and abbesses. It was suppressed in most personal arms in the Catholic Church in 1969, and is since found on arms of abbots and abbesses, diocesan coats of arms and other corporate arms.
The Church of God in Christ, Incorporated is a Pentecostal body, the largest Pentecostal Christian church in the United States. The Church of God in Christ community views the Presiding Bishop as the positional and functional leader of the Church. The Presiding Bishop also bears a crosier.

Eastern Christianity

In Eastern Christianity (Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy or Eastern Catholicism), bishops use a similar pastoral staff. When a new bishop is consecrated, the crosier (Greek: paterissa, Slavonic: pósokh) is presented to him by the chief consecrator following the dismissal at the Divine Liturgy. A bishop bears the crosier whenever he is present for church services outside the altar (sanctuary), whether in his own diocese or not, even if he is not serving. Auxiliary bishops also bear it. It is never carried inside the altar; rather, when the bishop enters the sanctuary, he leans the paterissa against the iconostasis, usually by the icon of Christ.
The Archbishop of Cyprus has the unique privilege of carrying a paterissa shaped like an imperial sceptre. This is one of the Three Privileges granted to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus by the Emperor Zeno (the other two being to sign his name in cinnabar—i.e., ink colored vermilion by the addition of the mineral cinnabar—and to wear purple instead of black robes under his vestments).
An Eastern archimandrite (high-ranking abbot), hegumen (abbot) or or hegumenia (abbess) who leads a monastic community also bears a crosier. It is conferred upon them by the bishop during the Divine Liturgy where the candidate is elevated.
When he is not vested, a bishop, archimandrite or abbot uses a different type of staff in the form of a walking stick topped with a silver pommel.


Croziers are often made of fine metal, or at least gilded or silver-plated. They may also be made of wood, though this is more common of the crosier carried by an abbot that a bishop.

Western croziers

Crosiers used by Western bishops have curved or hooked tops, similar in appearance to staves traditionally used by shepherds, hence they are also known as crooks. In some languages there is only one term, referring to this form, such as the German Krummstab, Dutch kromstaf. The crook itself (i.e., the curved top portion) may be formed as a simple shepherd's crook, terminating in a floral pattern, reminiscent of the Aaron's rod, or in a serpent's head. It may encircle a depiction of the bishop's coat of arms or the figure of a saint. In some very ornate crozeirs, the place where the staff meets the crook may be designed to represent a church.
In previous times, a cloth of linen or richer material, called the Sudarium, was suspended from the crozier at the place where the bishop would grasp it. This was originally a practical application which prevented the bishop's hand from sweating and discolouring (or being discolourd by) the metal. Over time it became more elaborate and ceremonial in function. In heraldry, the sudarium is often still depicted when croziers occur on coats of arms.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the crosier is always carried by the bishop with the crook turned away from himself; that is to say, facing toward the persons or objects which he is facing regardless of whether he is the Ordinary or not. The Sacred Congregation of Rites on November 26, 1919 stated in a reply to the following question,
"In case an outside Bishop uses a Bishops' staff, this being either required by the function or permitted by the Ordinary, in what direction should he hold the upper part, or crook?
Reply. Always with the crook turned away from himself, that is toward the persons or objects which he is facing." (AAS 12-177)

Eastern Croziers

The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic crosier, is found in two common forms. One is tau-shaped, with curved arms, surmounted by a small cross. The other has a top comprising a pair of sculptured serpents or dragons curled back to face each other, with a small cross between them. The symbolism in the latter case is of the bronze serpent made by Moses in Bible verse |Numbers|21:8-9|HE. It is also reminiscent of the caduceus, indicating the role of the bishop as healer of spiritual diseases.

Papal usage

A crosier was also carried on some occasions by the pope, beginning in the early days of the church. This practice was gradually phased out and had disappeared by the time of Innocent III's papacy in the eleventh century. In the Middle Ages, popes would carry a three-barred cross (one more bar than on those carried before archbishops), in the same manner as other bishops carried a crosier. This was in turn phased out, but Paul VI introduced the modern papal pastoral staff, which instead of the triple cross depicts a modern rendition of the crucified Christ, whose arms are fixed to a crossbar that is curved somewhat in the manner of an Eastern crozier.



  • The Catholic Encyclopedia ">}}
  • Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ">}}
  • The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church

External links

crosier in Catalan: Bàcul pastoral
crosier in German: Krummstab
crosier in Modern Greek (1453-): Ποιμαντορική ράβδος
crosier in Spanish: Báculo pastoral
crosier in Esperanto: Episkopa bastono
crosier in French: Crosse épiscopale
crosier in Korean: 주교 지팡이
crosier in Italian: Pastorale (liturgia)
crosier in Luxembourgish: Bëschofsstaf
crosier in Dutch: Kromstaf
crosier in Japanese: 司教杖
crosier in Norwegian: Bispestav
crosier in Polish: Pastorał
crosier in Portuguese: Báculo
crosier in Russian: Посох (монашеский)
crosier in Serbian: Жезал
crosier in Swedish: Kräkla

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Malacca cane, alpenstock, baton, caduceus, cane, chain of office, crook, cross, cross-staff, crutch, crutch-stick, fasces, gavel, handstaff, keys, lituus, mace, mantle, miter, pallium, pastoral staff, paterissa, portfolio, quarterstaff, red hat, ring, rod, rod of office, scepter, shillelagh, staff, stave, stick, swagger stick, swanking stick, tiara, triple crown, truncheon, walking stick, wand, wand of office
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