The history of the beard

Clean-shaven, mustachioed or heavy-bearded, the fashion of men's facial hair has come and gone over the centuries. In a feature article for the Telegraph, Lucinda Hawksley looks at the fashion from Roman times to the Middle Ages.

Hawksley writes:

During these dark centuries for the bearded Christian, the Catholic Church waged a war on whiskers, Pope Gregory IV wrote a ninth-century diatribe against bearded priests, and by the early 1100s this pogonophobic feeling had spread to encompass not only priests but also all male worshippers. At mass on Christmas Day in 1105, a Bishop Godfrey was said to have refused Holy Communion to any man who had come to church unshaven. By this date the beard was being perceived in Britain as blasphemous and ‘unchristian’. In the same year, the French bishop Serlo of Séez compared bearded men to ‘goats and Saracens’. His sermon was delivered in the presence of the English king Henry I, who had resolutely kept his beard and thus incurred his Church’s displeasure. The Anglo-Norman monk and chronicler Orderic Vitalis also railed against the King’s beard. In the face of such public opposition, Henry was eventually induced to shave.