Today, veiled women immediately evoke the use of the hijab or other types of cloth used to cover women’s heads, faces or entire bodies in the Muslim world and, increasingly (and controversially), by Muslim women in Western countries. But the West, too, has a long history of compelling women to cover their heads. This book helps readers re-discover a long-standing tradition, substantiated by the Bible, ancient Greek statues, the Roman Catholic Church’s founders, medieval laws, and artistic and literary works. In the past, married women were obliged to cover their heads; veils were worn as an expression of mourning; women used them to signal their decision to devote themselves to a religious vocation. Veils have been symbols of discretion and modesty, but they are also fashion accessories used for ostentatious displays of elegance and luxury.
Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli teaches Medieval History and History of Cities at the University of Bologna.