Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religions, especially the Latin Rite and other Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutheran Churches. Many other groups also make use of vestments, but this was a point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation and sometimes since - notably during the Ritualist controversies in England in the 19th century.
For other garments worn by clergy, see also Clerical clothing.
Rubrics for vesting
(regulations) for the type of vestments to be worn vary between the various communions and denominations. In some, clergy are directed to wear special clerical clothing
in public at all, most, or some times. This generally consists of a clerical collar
, clergy shirt, and (on certain occasions) a cassock. In the case of members of religious orders
, non-liturgical wear includes a religious habit
. This ordinary wear does not constitute liturgical vestment, but simply acts as a medium of identifying the wearer as a member of the clergy or a religious order.
A distinction is often made between the type of vestment worn for Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion and that worn for other services. Non-Eucharistic vestments are typically referred to as "choir dress" or "choir habit," in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches, because they are worn for the chanting of the Daily Office, which, in the West, takes place in the choir rather than the sanctuary. In other traditions, there is no specific name for this attire, although it often takes the form of a Geneva gown worn with or without preaching bands and a stole or preaching scarf.
In the more ancient traditions, each vestment—or at least the stole—will have a cross on it, which the clergyman will kiss before putting it on. A number of churches also have special vesting prayers which are recited before putting each vestment on, especially the Eucharistic vestments.
Latin Catholic, Anglican and Protestant vestments
For the Eucharist, each vestment symbolizes a spiritual dimension of the priesthood, with roots in the very origins of the Church. In some measure these vestments harken to the Roman roots of the Western Church.
Use of the following vestments varies. Some are used by all Western Christians in liturgical traditions. Many are used only in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and there is much variation within each of those churches.
Used by Latin Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Protestants Surplice
: A decorative white tunic worn over the cassock
: A long, narrow strip of cloth draped around the neck, a vestment of distinction, a symbol of ordination. Deacons
wear it draped across the left shoulder diagonally across the body to the right hip while priests
wear it draped around the back of the neck. It may be crossed in the front and secured with the cincture
. Corresponds to the Orthodox orarion
(see below). Alb
: The common garment of all ministers at the eucharist, worn over a cassock. Most closely corresponds to the Orthodox sticharion
(see below). Symbolizes baptismal garment. See also Cassock-alb
Used by Latin Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and some Methodists Chasuble
: The outermost sacramental garment of priests
, often quite decorated. It is only worn for the celebration of the Eucharist
. Corresponds to the Orthodox phelonion
(see below). See also chasuble-alb
: The outermost garment of deacons
: a cloth around the neck used to cover the collar of street attire. It is worn by the celebrant
, and subdeacon
for the Mass
: or Girdle. Corresponds to the Orthodox zone
Used by Latin Catholics, Anglicans, and some Lutherans Tunicle
: The outermost garment of subdeacons
: A circular cape reaching to the ankle, used by bishops, priests and deacons. Rochet
: Similar to a surplice but with narrower sleeves. It is usually highly decorated with lace. Its use is reserved to bishops and certain canons
: Skull cap, similar to the Jewish yarmulke
: Worn by Bishops
and some abbots
. Despite the having the same name, this does not really correspond with the Eastern mitre (see below), which has a distinct history and which was adopted much later. Pectoral cross
: The cross
worn by bishops. It is held by a chain (or cord in choir dress
) around the neck and rests on the chest.
Used by Latin Catholics and some Anglicans Maniple
: A liturgical handkerchief bound about the wrist, it is only used during the Mass
. The maniple until recently has rarely been seen, but appears to be gaining in popularity in many circles and is used today in the context of the Tridentine Mass
and in some Anglo-Catholic
and other parishes. According to some authorities, this corresponds to the Orthodox epigonation
(see below). Humeral veil
: Long cloth rectangle draped around the shoulders and used to cover the hands of the priest when carrying the monstrance
. It is also worn by the subdeacon
when holding the paten
: May be worn by clergy of all ranks except the Pope; its color can signify rank.
Used only by Latin Catholics Pallium
: A narrow band of lamb's wool decorated with six black crosses, worn about the neck with short pendants front and back, worn by the Pope and bestowed by him to Metropolitan bishops
. Corresponds to the Orthodox omophorion
(see below). Rationale
: An episcopal humeral worn over the chasuble. It is only used by the Bishops of Eichstätt
, and Kraków
. Until the 17th century, it was also in use in the Bishopric of Regensburg
(Ratisbon). Pontifical gloves
: The liturgical gloves worn by a bishop celebrating a Pontifical Solemn Mass
. They are usually seen today only within the context of the Tridentine Mass
. Pontifical sandals
: The liturgical sandals worn by a bishop celebrating a Pontifical Solemn Mass
. They are usually covered by the liturgical stockings
, which are of the liturgical color
of the Mass. They are usually seen today only within the context of the Tridentine Mass
: A double-layered mozzetta
, now only occasionally worn by the Pope
during solemn Pontifical High Masses
. Papal tiara
: Formerly worn by the Pope
at his coronation
and at key secular moments; it has fallen out of use but may be revived at any time if the reigning Pontiff wishes. This is strictly speaking not a vestment but an item of regalia
since it was never worn within liturgical services with the exception of the blessing Urbi et Orbi
: A vestment similar to a broad maniple but worn suspended from the right side of the cincture, decorated with a cross on one end and an agnus dei
on the other; worn only by the Pope during a Pontifical High Mass. Falda
: A vestment that forms a long skirt extending from under the hem of the alb; it is so long that train-bearers need to carry it; worn only by the Pope during a Pontifical High Mass and draped over the Pope's body at a Papal Funeral.
Used only by Anglicans Tippet
: (or Preaching Scarf). Black scarf worn by bishop, priests and deacons at choir offices and other non-sacramental services. Chimere
: Red or black outer garment of bishops. Resembles a knee-length, open-front waist coat. Hood
: Academic hood is sometimes worn by Anglican clergy at choir offices. It is also sometimes worn by Methodists and Reformed clergy with an Academic Gown ("Geneva Gown"), though this is fairly rare. Apron
: A short cassock reaching just above the knee, worn by archdeacons
(for whom it is black) and bishops (for whom it is purple). Now largely obsolete. Gaiters
: Covering of the lower leg worn by archdeacons and bishops with the apron. Black, buttoned up the sides, and worn to just below the knee. Like the apron, these, too, are largely obsolete. Canterbury cap
: a soft, square-shaped hat.
Used only by Protestants Pulpit robe
: A common simple vestment with open, wide, and bell-shaped sleeves.
Eastern Church vestments
In the Orthodox Church, any member of the clergy, of whatever rank, will be vested when serving his particular function during the Divine Liturgy or other service. Eastern Catholics use identical vestments as their Orthodox counterparts. As in the Latin-rite Catholic Church, the use of vestments is rooted in the early history of the church. The various vestments serve several different functions. The three forms of stole (Orarion, Epitrachelion, and Omophorion) are marks of rank. The three outer garments (Sticharion, Phelonion, and Sakkos) serve to distinguish the clergy from the laity. Some are practical (Zone and Epimanikia), holding the other vestments in place. Some (Nabedrennik and Epigonation) are awards of distinction.
In addition to these functions, most vestments carry a symbolic meaning as well. These symbolic meanings are often indicated by the prayer that the priest says as he puts each item on. These prayers are verses taken directly from the Old Testament, usually the Psalms. For example, the prayer for the Sticharion is from Isaiah 61:10:
- My soul will rejoice in the Lord, for he has clothed me with a garment of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of gladness; he has placed a crown on my head as on a bridegroom, and adorned me with beauty as a bride. Sticharion (Greek στιχάριον) : Actually a form of the garment worn at baptism, this is the one vestment worn by all clergy. It is even used by non-ordained persons carrying out a liturgical function, such as an "altar boy". For priests and bishops, it is made of lightweight material, usually white. It corresponds most closely with the Western alb (see above). Orarion (Greek ὀράριον) : A long narrow strip of cloth worn by deacons over the left shoulder and reaching to the ankle in both front and back. It is also worn by subdeacons and, in some places of the Greek tradition, by tonsured altar servers. It corresponds to the Western stole (see above). Epitrachelion (Greek ἐπιτραχήλιον, "over the neck") : This stole is worn by priests and bishops as the symbol of their priesthood. It is worn around the neck with the two adjacent sides sewn or buttoned together, leaving enough space through which to place the head. It corresponds to the Western stole (see above). Epimanikia (Greek ἐπιμανίκια) : Cuffs bound with laces. The deacon wears them beneath the sticharion, priests and bishops above. They are not used by any lower rank. Zone (Greek ζώνη) : Cloth belt worn by priests and bishops over the epitrachelion. Corresponds to the Western cincture (see above). Phelonion (Greek φαιλόνιον or φαινόλιον) : Large conical sleeveless garment worn by priests over all other vestments, with the front largely cut away to free the hands. Byzantine rite Bishops may also wear the phelonion when not serving according to hierarchical rubrics. Corresponds to the Western chasuble (see above). Sakkos (Greek σάκκος) : Instead of the phelonion, the bishop usually wears the sakkos or Imperial dalmatic. This is a tunic reaching below the knees with wide sleeves and a distinctive pattern of trim. It is always buttoned up the sides. Nabedrennik (Slavonic набедренникъ) : A square or rectangular cloth suspended on the right side by two adjacent corners from a strap drawn over the left shoulder. This is a relatively recent Russian invention and is not used in the Greek tradition. It is an award, so it is not worn by all priests. Bishops do not use it. Epigonation/Palitsa (Greek ἐπιγονάτιον "over the knee"; Slavonic палица, "club") : A stiff diamond-shaped cloth that hangs on the right side of the body; it is suspended by one corner from a strap drawn over the left shoulder. It is worn by all bishops and as an award for priests. Omophorion (Greek ὠμοφόριον) : This is the distinctive episcopal vestment, a wide cloth band draped about the shoulders in a characteristic manner. It corresponds to the Western pallium (see above). Mitre (Greek Μίτρα) : The Byzantine Orthodox mitre is modeled on the ancient Byzantine imperial crown; it is worn by all bishops and awarded to some high-ranking priests. The bishop's mitre is surmounted by a cross, but the priest's is not; both are bulbous and adorned with icons. Coptic Orthodox & Ethiopian Orthodox bishops also wear the Byzantine mitre. Armenian Orthodox, on the other hand, have the Byzantine mitre as part of the normal vestments worn by priests of all ranks, and their bishops are distinguished by wearing mitres after the western shape. Mitres are not worn in the Syriac Orthodox tradition, where a decorated hood like an amice called masnaphto , meaning 'turban', is worn instead by prelates. Pectoral cross : A large cross is worn around the neck by all bishops, but not necessarily by all priests. In Russian usage, the style of Pectoral cross worn indicates the rank of the priest. Engolpion/Panagia : Engolpion (Greek ἐγκόλπιον) is a general term for something worn upon the bosom; here, it refers to a medallion with an icon in the center. A Panagia (Greek Παναγία, All-holy, one of the titles of the Theotokos) is an engolpion with Mary as the subject of the icon; this is worn by all bishops. All primates and some bishops below primatial rank have the dignity of a second engolpion, which usually depicts Christ. Mantiya (Greek μανδύας) : This is a sleeveless cape that fastens at the neck and the feet, worn by all monks. The usual monastic mantle is black; that worn by the bishop as he enters the church for a service but before he is vested is more elaborately colored and decorated. This is, strictly speaking, an item of street wear, not a vestment; however, in modern usage it is worn only in church. Varkas : This is a broad stiff band of heavily embroidered brocade and decoration, functioning like a collar, worn exclusively by Armenian Orthodox priests over the phelonion. It corresponds to, and is likely derived from, the Western amice.
Despite their often elaborate design, the vestments are generally intended to focus attention on God, and the office of the person wearing them, rather than on the person himself. It is partly for this reason that a Russian phelonion is designed with a very high back, so that when the priest is standing facing the altar his head is almost completely hidden. Other items, such as the epimanikia or cuffs, represent manacles or chains, reminding the wearer and others that their office is a position of service.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
, temple robes
are worn at certain times during the worship services. While not strictly a vestment, some Mormons also wear temple garments
, which are worn under a practicing Mormon's street clothes and are similar to the Jewish tallit katan