(from the Greek
, ἐπιτραχήλιον "around the neck"; often called simply a stole
in casual English-language usage) is the liturgical vestment
worn by priests
of the Orthodox Church
and Eastern Catholic Churches
as the symbol of their priesthood, corresponding to the Western stole
. It is essentially the orarion
adapted for priests and bishops, worn around the neck with the two ends hanging down equally in front (more or less to the ankle) and with the two adjacent sides sewn or buttoned together up the center, leaving enough space through which to place the head. In practice, the epitrachelion is made to be worn only this way, tailored to lie flat around the neck, and is never actually unfastened. The portion hanging down in front is sometimes even a solid piece of fabric. It is usually made of brocade
with seven embroidered
or appliquéd crosses
, one at the back of the neck and three down each side.
The priest wears the epitrachelion whenever serving as a priest (as opposed to simply attending a service). For some services, e.g. vespers or matins, he wears the epitrachelion by itself. When he is fully vested for the Divine Liturgy, he wears the epitrachelion over the sticharion and under the zone and the phelonion. If a priest is simply attending a service, he wears no vestments, but will put on his epitrachelion (and often his epimanikia) before receiving the Eucharist.
When the bishop is fully vested he wears the epitrachelion over the sticharion and under the zone, the sakkos and the omophorion.
The Syriac Orthodox hamnikho (literally 'necklace') and the Armenian Orthodox urār are worn in a similar fashion.