Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religions, especially the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican Churches. Many other Protestant groups also make use of vestments, but this was a point of controversy in the English Reformation.

For other garments worn by clergy, see also Clerical clothing.

Roman Catholic, Anglican, & Protestant vestments

For the Mass, 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 See of Peter.

  • Surplice - A decorative white tunic worn over the cassock in place of an alb.
  • Stole - A long, narrow strip of cloth draped around the neck, a vestment of distinction, a symbol of immortality. Deacons wear it draped across the left shoulder diagonally across the body to the right hip. Corresponds to the Orthodox orarion and epitrachelion (see below).
  • Chasuble - The outermost sacramental garment of priests and bishops, often quite decorated, an emblem of charity. Corresponds to the Orthodox phelonion (see below).
  • Alb - The common garment of all ministers at Mass, worn over street clothes or a cassock, representing a figure of perfect integrity. Most closely corresponds to the Orthodox sticharion (see below).
  • Dalmatic - The outermost garment of deacons.
  • Tunicle - The outermost garment of subdeacons.
  • Cope
  • Maniple, akin to a handkerchief, reminding us that it is our lot to sow tears. According to some authorities, this corresponds to the Orthodox epigonation (see below).
  • Amice, representing the helmet of salvation
  • Cincture or Girdle, typifying sacerdotal chastity. Corresponds to the Orthodox zone.
  • Humeral veil
  • Rochet
  • Chimere
  • Zucchetto - skull cap, similar to the yarmulke
  • Mitre - worn by the Pope, Cardinals and Bishops. 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.
  • Biretta - worn by clergy of all ranks except the Pope.
  • Papal tiara - formerly worn by the Pope at his coronation; it has fallen out of use but may be revived at any time when the reigning Pontiff wishes.
  • 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 on Metropolitans and Archbishops. Corresponds to the Orthodox omophorion (see below).

Eastern Orthodox vestments

In the Orthodox Church, any member of the clergy, of whatever rank, will be vested when serving their particular function during the Divine Liturgy or other service. 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.

  • Sticharion - 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: οράριο) - 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 the Greek tradition, by tonsured taper-bearers. It corresponds to the Western stole (see above).
  • Epitrachelion (Greek: επιτραχήλιο, "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: επιμανίκια) - 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: φελόνιο) - Large conical sleeveless garment worn by priests over all other vestments, with the front largely cut away to free the hands. 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 (Russian: набедренник) - 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: επιγονάτιο, "over the knee"; Russian: 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: ωμοφόριο) - This is the distinctive episcopal vestment, a wide cloth band draped about the shoulders in a characteristic manner. Corresponds to the Western pallium (see above).
  • Mitre - The 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. [1] (
  • Pectoral cross - A large cross is worn around the neck by all bishops, but not necessarily by all priests.
  • Engolpion/Panagia - Engolpion (Greek: εγκόλπιο) 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 - 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.

Related articles

fr:Paramentique nl:Liturgische kleding de:Liturgisches Gewand


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