Staff of office

A staff of office is a staff, the carrying of which often denotes an official's position, a social rank or a degree of social prestige.

Orthodox protodeacon holding a walking stick. Portrait by Ilya Repin, 1877 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow).
Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton (d. 1757), carrying the thin white staff of the Lord Chamberlain.

Apart from the ecclesiastical and ceremonial usages mentioned below, there are less formal usages. A gold- or silver-topped cane can express social standing (or dandyism). Teachers or prefects in schools traditionally carried less elaborate canes which marked their right (and potential threat) to administer canings, and military officers carry a residual threat of physical punishment in their swagger sticks. Orchestral conductors have in their batons symbols of authority as well as tools of their trade.

Ecclesiastical use

Church sidesmen bear sticks or rods or wands of office; bishops may use a crozier or crook.[1]

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches an ecclesiastical walking stick is used by bishops,[2] archimandrites and hegumens (abbots) when walking outside. It is usually made of dark wood and is straight, rather than having a curved handle. The walking stick used by bishops and archimandrites is normally adorned with a silver grip at the top and a metal ferrule at the tip. The walking stick used by a hegumen or hegumenia (abbess) is normally of plain wood, unadorned.

The walking stick is not used in any liturgical context, except to the extent that when a bishop is formally received at the beginning of the service, he will carry it as he walks into the church. An altar server will usually take it from him when he enters the narthex and return it to him when he leaves at the end of the service.[3]

Ceremonial use

Monarchs often have a sceptre signifying their office, and field-marshals are traditionally given a short thick baton in several countries. There are also offices which take their titles from their staff, such as Black Rod, the Gentleman Usher of the White Rod and the Tipstaff. A thin white "wand" or staff is the traditional emblem of the Lord Chamberlain of England and then the UK. As the most senior official of the Royal Household, responsible for discipline, it could be used to touch rowdy courtiers as a physically gentle but intimidating way to calm situations. It is ceremonially broken at a monarch's funeral, when the Lord Chamberlain automatically loses office (unless then re-appointed). Some corporate bodies such as local councils and livery companies use maces.

In Islamic worship, the leader holds a staff during the 2 speeches in Friday prayers[citation needed]

See also


  1. Norris, Herbert (January 2002). Church Vestments: Their Origin and Development. p. 116. ISBN 9780486422565.
  2. "Section 13.04 Ecclesiastical style of dress". Governance and Canon. Inclusive Orthodox Church. Retrieved 10 October 2010. [A Bishop] may carry a walking stick ...
  3. Hastings, James (1921). Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics: A-Art: Index. C. Scribner's sons. p. 813. ISBN 9780567065094.