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vestments

vestments, garments worn by ecclesiastics in ceremonial functions. The cassock, a close-fitting gown buttoning down the front and reaching to the feet, is not a vestment so much as the daily uniform of the Western priest. Among most Protestants the vestments are generally limited to full gowns, much like academic gowns, sometimes with white bands worn around the neck and tied in front. Some Anglicans and Lutherans approximate the Roman Catholic use. In the Roman Catholic Church the priest's vestments at Mass are the most important. They are often elaborately worked and are usually made of linen or silk. They have remained largely the same since the early Middle Ages; in origin they are the upper-class "Sunday dress" of the late Roman Empire. Certain of them match in color; this "liturgical color" varies according to the Mass being said for that day, e.g., white for Easter and black for requiem Masses. The vestments for Mass are put on over the cassock as follows: the amice, a rectangular white strip covering the shoulders and having strings put around the neck; over this the alb, a long white gown with tight sleeves; the girdle, a rope of hemp or linen with tassels, usually white, confining the alb; the maniple (of the liturgical color), a broad band hanging over the left forearm; the stole (of the liturgical color), a long band hanging around the neck and crossed in front and over all the chasuble (of the liturgical color), a cloak with a hole for the head, cut in at the sides to give the arms freedom of action, often covering only the shoulders and reaching only part way down in front and back. The stole is worn uncrossed when the alb is not worn (as when the priest distributes communion), or diagonally from the left shoulder to the right side (by a deacon). The deacon's vestment par excellence is the dalmatic (of the liturgical color), a coat reaching to the knees, with wide, short sleeves. The cope is a great cape worn by the priest in processions, in giving absolution to the dead, at benediction, and on some other occasions. The vestments proper to a bishop celebrating Mass, in addition to the priest's vestments, are miter, gloves, buskins (stockings), and sandals (slippers). Not properly a vestment but frequently seen in churches is the surplice or cotta, a loose-fitting, white, linen garment reaching to the waist or knees. The only vestment peculiar to the Anglican communion is the chimer worn by some bishops, a black gown with white balloon sleeves of lawn. Related to the chimer, but shorter and sleeveless, is the manteletta of Roman Catholic bishops. See pallium.

For bibliography, see liturgy; Mass

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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