The clothes worn by monks and nuns

David wore robes made out of animal skins. During the cold winter months he would have worn furs to keep him warm.

Monks and nuns all over the world are easily recognised by what they wear. Different Orders vary slightly in the robes which they wear, but all monks and nuns wear a robe called a habit.

The monks of St. Benedict wear black robes. The Cistercian monks (who broke away from the Benedictine monks) wanted to be different, so they chose to wear white robes. These are made from sheep's wool that has not been dyed. Because of this they are also known as the 'White Monks.'

A Cistercian monk also wears a black apron, called a scapula, over his white robe. (Although the Cistercian monks broke away from the Benedictine monks, they still respected St. Benedict and the black scapula is a sign of this respect). The robe and scapula are fastened around the waist with a belt.

When the monks are outdoors in cold weather they wear a loose white cowl over their habit. This has wide sleeves and a large, loose hood.

The monks wear shoes but if the weather is warm they wear sandals.

A Benedictine nun wears a black habit. She also wears a white linen headdress called a wimple, which is covered with a black veil which hides her hair. All Cistercian nuns wear a white habit.

A Cistercian monk wearing
A Cistercian monk wearing
A Cistercian nun wearing
a white cowl over his habit.
a white habit with a black scapula.
white habit with a black veil.


The illustrations are from the book "A Cistercian Monk's Life" by Gillian Elias (published by Saint Bernard Press, Leicester)
who has kindly given permission for them to be used in this project.