Why did all Popes grow beards for 180 years and than stop?


As I was seeking to prove whether the medal featured above of Pope Gregorivs III from the 8th century was really minted in the 8th century I stumbled upon this page with various pictures of Papal medals.


I happen to look through them quickly to satisfy my curiousity and I notice that all the Popes starting with in 1522 with Clement VII ending with in 1700 with Innocent XII happen to have beards, most of the time quite big ones in the 16th century. I can only assume that there was a trend in the 16th and 17th century to copy the greek philosophers and have beards to prove some sort of “greco-roman” philosophical statement?

Otherwise perhaps the influence was from unshaven monastic hermits and certain monks or friars?

Either way it is a nice fact of history that does bring their fashion in alliance with the Eastern Catholic/Orthodox Tradition of clerical/monastic facial hair.

I came across this looking for something. I can’t verify this in wikipedia, nor have any interest to do so: I simply don’t care.

But if it helps:

During his half-year imprisonment in 1527, Clement VII grew a full beard as a sign of mourning for the sack of Rome. This was a violation of Catholic canon law, which required priests to be clean-shaven; however, it had the precedent of the beard which Pope Julius II had worn for nine months in 1511-1512 as a similar sign of mourning for the loss of the Papal city of Bologna.

Unlike Julius II, however, Clement VII kept his beard until his death in 1534. His example in wearing a beard was followed by his successor, Pope Paul III, and indeed by twenty-four popes who followed him, down to Pope Innocent XII, who died in 1700. Clement VII was thus the unintentional originator of a fashion that lasted well over a century.


An interesting sidenote to history, but in a word probably fashion - fashions for being clean shaven or hirsute come and go (early 1950s vs late 1960s comes to mind)

In short, and apologies to those of you who like the musical “Hair” -

‘I’m hairy high and low,
don’t ask me why - don’t know
It’s not for lack of bread
like the Grateful Dead, darlin’ …

Gimme a face with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, streaming, gleaming, flaxen, waxen.

Gimme down-to-there hair,
Waist-length or longer
Here, baby,
There, momma,
Everywhere, daddy daddy …

Grow it
Show it
Long as I can grow it
My hair!"

Is this true?

Beards go in and out of style, we haven’t had a President with a beard since Benjamin Harrison. But before Harrison in the 19th century, we had several bearded presidents including Lincoln and Grant.

Just changing customs and times.

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