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Historically, the monastic scapular was at times referred to as scutum (i.e.
shield), as it was laid over the head, which it originally covered and protected with one portion (from which the hood afterwards developed).
For Roman Catholics, for instance, over the centuries several popes have approved specific indulgences for scapulars, as for some other objects of popular piety.
Some authors interpret the scapular as a symbolic apron based on the fact that monks and nuns, when engaged on some manual labor, tend to cover it with a protective apron or carefully tuck it up or throw the front length back over their shoulder to prevent it from getting in the way.
A specific aspect of the use of the monastic scapular from its earliest days was obedience and the term jugum Christi, i.e. The term "yoke of Christ" signified obedience and removing a scapular was like removing the yoke of Christ, i.e. For instance, the Carmelite constitution of 1281 prescribed that the Scapular should be worn to bed under penalty of serious fault.
And the constitution of 1369 included automatic excommunication for a Carmelite saying mass without a scapular.
Today, the monastic scapular is part of the garb, the habit, of many Christian religious orders, of both monks and nuns.
Among Franciscans, they were known as Cordbearers, due to their also wearing a small cord around the waist in imitation of the one worn by the friar.
The "devotional scapular" is a much smaller item and evolved from the monastic scapular.
These may also be worn by individuals who are not members of a monastic order.
It is a somewhat large length of cloth suspended both front and back from the shoulders of the wearer, often reaching to the knees. Monastic scapulars originated as aprons worn by medieval monks, and were later extended to habits for members of religious organizations, orders or confraternities.
Monastic scapulars now form part of the habit of monks and nuns in many Christian orders.