The Public Paperfolding History Project

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Mitres of Infamy

This page attempts to record a little about the history of the primitive form of paper hats sometimes known as Mitres of Infamy.

These hats are not the same as, but are related to, the capirotes or corozas which the Spanish Inquisition imposed on their victims, which were also sometimes made of paper.



This detail from 'The Last Judgement' by Taddeo di Bartolo shows adulterers wearing mitres of infamy, presumably made of paper in this instance because they have been written on.



Jan Hus, the Czech theologian, was condemned to death for heresy in 1415 and subsequently burnt at the stake, while he was said to be wearing a paper hat inscribed with the word 'Haeresiarcha (signifying that he was the leader of a heretical movement) From Wikipedia (no reference for the source of this information is given).

This illustration showing Jan Hus wearing a Mitre of Infamy is from the Martinicka Bible and dates from 1430.



A charivari featuring a man wearing a a Mitre of Infamy (though in this case made from cloth with a paper label stating his sins / crimes attached to the front) is shown in the print titled 'Lust', from the series 'The Seven Deadly Sins' by Peter Brueghel the Elder, which can be dated to 1558.



A passage in the issue of 'Biblioteque Francoise ou Histoire Litteraire de La France' for January and February 1726 discusses the various uses of the word 'Mitre'. Roughly translated it says: 'In Spain we still call today those very tall paper caps which the Inquisition put on the heads of those it condemns to death Mitres, because these caps look a little like the Mitre. It is thus that the English put a Mitre on the head of the Maid of Orleans when they burned her in Rouen in 1431. And to say it here in passing, it is not because of the paper hats, in the form of a Mitre, which the baker's boys commonly call Mitrons?'

The paper hat said to have been worn by Joan of Arc would be an example of a 'mitre of infamy'. However, there are no contemporary illustrations of Joan of Arc wearing a mitre of infamy nor, as far as I am aware, are there any contemporary descriptions of her death which mention this detail. All the illustrations showing her wearing a Mitre of Infamy seem to be considerably later in date. See entries below.



This illustration showing Joan of Arc wearing a Mitre of Infamy appeared on the cover of te French satirical magazine 'Le Rire' on 23 November 1899



'Jeanne d'Arc: ses costumes, son armure' by Adrien Harmand was published by Librairie E Leroux in 1929. It contained reconstructions of Joan of Arc's clothing at various stages in her life, including the Mitre of Infamy. I have not been able to access a copy of this work, but an article based on the book was published in the Illustrated London News of 21st June 1930 which reproduced Harmand's reconstruction.