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The Cloisters. Basilica Of Saint Paul-Without-The-Walls, Rome. Author: Dnalor 01. Licence (CC-BY-SA 3.0). Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Cassocks. Cottas. Surplices. Amaranth Red. Simar. Rochet. Zimarra. Greca. Douillette. Manto. Watered Silk. Mozzetta. Pellegrina. Soutane. Sarum Cassock. “Vestis Talaris”. “Cassock” Means “Long Coat”. “Cotta” Means “Cut Off”.

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopædia,
unless otherwise stated.

in White Cassock (sometimes, though unofficially, called a Simar)
with Pellegrina and Fringed-White Fascia.
Português: Papa Bento XVI visita a "Fazenda Esperança",
local de recuperação de dependentes químicos localizado
na zona rural de Guaratinguetá, São Paulo, Brasil.
Photo: 12 May 2007.
Source: Agência Brasil.
Author: Valter Campanato/ABr.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Cassock, or Soutane, is an item of Christian Clerical Clothing used by the Clergy of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Reformed Churches, among others. "Ankle-Length Garment" is the literal meaning of the corresponding Latin term “Vestis Talaris”. It is related to Habit, traditionally worn by Nuns, Monks, and Friars.

The Cassock derives historically from the Tunic, that in Ancient Rome was worn underneath the Toga, and the Chiton, that was worn beneath the Himation, in Ancient Greece. In Religious Services, it has traditionally been worn underneath Vestments, such as the Alb.

In The West, the Cassock is little used [Editor: Who says so ?] today, except for Religious Services; but, in many Countries, it was the normal every day wear of The Clergy until the second half of the 20th-Century, when it was replaced even in those Countries by a conventional Suit, distinguished from Lay Dress by being generally Black and by incorporating a Clerical Collar.

The word "Cassock" comes from Middle French “Casaque”, meaning a Long Coat. In turn, the Old French word may come ultimately from Turkish "Quzzak" (Nomad, Adventurer – the source of the word "Cossack"), an allusion to their typical Riding Coat, or from Persian کژاغند "kazhāgand" (Padded Garment) – کژ "kazh" (Raw Silk) + آغند "āgand" (Stuffed).

English: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wearing a Tropical White Cassock,
trimmed in Cardinalatial Scarlet, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Italiano: Missione genovese del Guaricano - Santo Domingo
(Dominican Republic), l'arcivescovo di Genova cardinale
Tarcisio Bertone in visita alla missione - Foto di Donpaolo
Source: Own work.
Author: di Donpaolo
This File: 28 February 2006.
User: Twice25
(Wikimedia Commons)

The name was originally specially applied to the Service Dress worn by Soldiers and Horsemen, and later to the long garment worn in Civil Life by both men and women. As an Ecclesiastical term, the word "Cassock" came into use somewhat late (as a translation of the old names of “Subtanea”, “Vestis Talaris”, “Toga Talaris”, or “Tunica Talaris”), being mentioned in Canon 74 of 1604; and it is in this sense alone that it now survives.

The word "Soutane" is a French-derived word, coming from Italian “Sottana”, derived in turn from Latin “Subtana”, the adjectival form of “Subtus” (beneath).

The Cassock (or “Soutane”) comes in a number of Styles or Cuts, though no particular symbolism attaches to these. A Roman Cassock often has a series of buttons down the front – sometimes thirty-three (symbolic of the years of The Life of Jesus). In some English-speaking countries, these buttons may be merely ornamental, with a concealed fly-front buttoning, known as a Chesterfield Front, used to fasten the garment.

A French Cassock also has buttons sewn to the sleeves, after the manner of a Suit, and a slightly broader skirt. An Ambrosian Cassock has a series of only five buttons under the neck, with a Sash on the waist. A Jesuit Cassock, in lieu of buttons, has a fly fastened with hooks at the collar, and is bound at the waist with a Cincture, knotted on the Right Side.

English: Priest wearing Roman Cassock.
Note the thirty-three buttons, symbolising the thirty-three years of
the Earthly life of Jesus Christ. First Native Roman Catholic Parish Priest
from The Belgian Congo (Zaire).
Français: Premier prêtre indigène de l'église catholique romain au Congo belge.
Lingála: Sángó moíndo ya libosó ya Eklesya Katolike na Kongó ya Bɛ́lɛjika.
Date: Early-1900s.
Source: Gazet van Antwerpen, 2 September 1906. "First Native Parish Priest."
Author: Unknown.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The ordinary Roman Cassock worn by Catholic Clerics (as distinct from that worn as Choir Dress) is Black, except in Tropical Countries, where, because of the heat, it is White, and usually without Shoulder Cape (Pellegrina). Coloured Piping and buttons are added, in accordance with Rank: Purple for Chaplains of His Holiness; Amaranth Red for Bishops, Protonotaries Apostolic and Honorary Prelates; and Scarlet Red for Cardinals.

The 1969 Instruction, on the Dress of Prelates, stated that, for all of them, even Cardinals, the Dress for ordinary use may be a simple Black Cassock without coloured trim.

A Band Cincture, or, Sash, known also as a Fascia, may be worn with the Cassock. The Instruction on the Dress of Prelates specifies that the two ends, that hang down by the side, have Silk Fringes, abolishing the Sash with Tassels.

A Black Faille Fascia is worn by Priests, Deacons, and Major Seminarians, while a Purple Faille Fascia is used by Bishops, Protonotaries Apostolic, Honorary Prelates, and Chaplains of His Holiness, when wearing a Cassock with coloured trim.

An Anglican Priest
wearing the standard Double-Breasted Sarum Cassock.
This File: 8 January 2007.
User: Fishhead64

A Black Watered-Silk Fascia is permitted for Priests attached to The Papal Household, a Purple Watered-Silk Fascia for Bishops attached to The Papal Household (for example, Apostolic Nuncios), and a Scarlet Watered-Silk Fascia for Cardinals. The Pope wears a White Watered-Silk Fascia, with his Coat-of-Arms on the ends.

In Choir Dress, Chaplains of His Holiness wear their Purple-Trimmed Black Cassocks with a Cotta, but Bishops, Protonotaries Apostolic, and Honorary Prelates use (with a Cotta or, in the case of Bishops, a Rochet and Mozzetta) Cassocks that are fully Purple (this Purple corresponds more closely with a Roman Purple and is approximated as Fuchsia) with Scarlet trim, while those of Cardinals are fully Scarlet with Scarlet trim.

Cardinals have the additional distinction of having both Choir Cassock Sleeves, and the Fascia, made of Scarlet Watered-Silk. The cut of the Choir Cassock is still a Roman-cut or French-cut Roman Cassock.

In the past, a Cardinal's Cassock was made entirely of Watered Silk, with a Train that could be fastened at the back of the Cassock. This Train was abolished by the Motu Proprio “Valde Solliciti” of Pope Pius XII, with effect from 1 January 1953.

With the same “Motu Proprio”, the Pope ordered that the Violet Cassock (then used in Penitential periods and in mourning) be made of wool, not silk, and, in February 1965, under Pope Paul VI, a Circular of The Sacred Ceremonial Congregation abolished the use of Watered Silk also for the Red Cassock.

An elbow-length Shoulder Cape, open in front, is sometimes worn with the Cassock, either fixed to it or detachable. It is known as a “Pellegrina”. It is distinct from the “Mozzetta”, which is buttoned in front and is worn over a “Rochet”.

Alvaro del Portillo, Opus Dei Prelate, Bishop (1982-1994),
wearing a Black, Amaranth-Piped Cassock, with “Pellegrina”,
a Purple Fascia, and a Gold, or Gilt, Pectoral Cross.
Date: Unknown.
Source: Opus Dei official website.
Author: Unknown.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The General Rule of The Roman Catholic Church is that the “Pellegrina” may be worn with the Cassock by Cardinals and Bishops. In 1850, the year in which he restored The Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, Blessed Pope Pius IX was understood to grant to all Priests, in England and Wales, the privilege of wearing a replica, in Black, of his own White Caped Cassock. Since then, the wearing of the “Pellegrina” with the Cassock has been a sign of a Catholic Priest in England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

In his 1909 book, Costume of Prelates of The Catholic Church, John Abel Felix Prosper Nainfa proposed the use of the English word "Simar", instead of the word "Cassock", for the garment with Shoulder Cape, which he treated as distinct from the Cassock proper.

Others, too, have made the same distinction between the "Simar" (with “Pellegrina”) and the "Cassock" (without “Pellegrina”), but many scholars disagree with Nainfa's distinction.

More particularly, documents of The Holy See make no such distinction, using the term "Cassock" or "Vestis Talaris", whether a “Pellegrina” is attached or not. Thus, the 1969 Instruction states that, for Cardinals and Bishops, "the elbow-length Cape, trimmed in the same manner as this Cassock, may be worn over it". "Cassock", rather than "Simar" is the term that is usually applied to the Dress of Popes and other Catholic Ecclesiastics.

The Instruction also gives no support to Nainfa's claim that the Cassock, with Shoulder Cape, should not be worn in Church Services, which moreover would be of difficult application, since the Cassock, with “Pellegrina”, is generally made as a single garment, with a non-detachable “Pellegrina”.

A Greek Orthodox Clergyman,
wearing Outer Cassock (“exorason”) and (“kalimavkion”).
Date: 24 December 2007.
Source: Own work.
Author: David Shankbone.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Nainfa wrote that, at that time, the garment with Shoulder Cape was, in Italian, called a “Zimarra”, a term, however, that, in that language, is today used rather of a historical loose-fitting “Over-Gown”, quite unlike the close-fitting “Cassock”, with “Pellegrina”, worn by Catholic Clergy, and similar to the fur-lined “Schaube” that was used in Northern Europe. Images of the historical “Zimarra”, as worn by women, can be seen at Dressing the Italian Way and The Italian Showcase.

In cold weather, the “Manto”, an ankle-length Cape, with or without Shoulder Cape, or the “Greca”, also known as the “Douillette”, an ankle-length Double-Breasted Overcoat, is traditionally worn over the Cassock. For Bishops and Priests, both the “Manto” and ”Greca” are Solid Black in colour, while, for the Pope, the “Manto” is Red and the “Greca” is White.

Cassocks are sometimes worn by Seminarians studying for the Priesthood, by Religious Brothers, by Lay People, when assisting with the Liturgy in Church, such as Altar Servers, and by members of Choirs (frequently with Cotta, or, more usually in Anglican Churches, Surplice).

Seminarian, vested in a pleated Roman-style Surplice with lace inserts, holding a Thuribleat the First Annual Eucharistic Congress, Charlotte, North Carolina.
This File: 1 October 2005.
User: Fennec
(Wikimedia Commons)

A Surplice (Late Latin “superpelliceum”, from “super” (over) and “pellis” (fur) is a Liturgical Vestment of the Western Christian Church. The Surplice is in the form of a Tunic of white linen or cotton fabric, reaching to the knees or to the ankles, with wide or moderately wide sleeves.

It was originally a long garment with open sleeves reaching nearly to the ground, as it remains in the Anglican tradition, but in the Catholic tradition, the Surplice often has shorter, closed sleeves and square shoulders. Anglicans typically refer to a Roman-style Surplice with the Mediæval Latin term “Cotta” [meaning “cut-off”, in Italian], as it is derived from the cut-off Alb.

It seems most probable that the Surplice first appeared in France or England, whence its use gradually spread to Italy. It is possible that there is a connection between the Surplice and the Gallican or Celtic Alb, an un-girdled Liturgical Tunic of the old Gallican Rite, which was superseded during the Carolingian era by the Roman Rite.

Anglican Priest, in Choir Habit 
Cassock, Surplice, Academic Hood
(University of Wales BD) and Tippet.
Photo: 21 October 2005.
Source: Own work.
Author: Gareth Hughes
(Wikimedia Commons)

The founding of The Augustinian Canons, in the second half of the 11th-Century, may have had a special influence upon the spread of the Surplice. Among The Augustinian Canons, the Surplice was not only the Choir Vestment, but also a part of the Habit of The Order.

The Surplice originally reached to the feet, but, as early as the 13th-Century, it began to shorten, though, as late as the 15th-Century, it still fell to the middle of the shin, and only in the 17th- and 18th-Centuries in Continental Europe did it become considerably shorter.

In several localities it underwent more drastic modifications in the course of time, which led to the appearance of various subsidiary forms alongside the original type.

For example: the sleeveless Surplice, which featured holes at the sides to put the arms through; the Surplice with slit arms or lappets (so-called "wings") instead of sleeves, often worn by Organists today, due to the ease of manœuvring the arms; the Surplice with, not only the sleeves, but the body of the garment itself slit up the sides, precisely like the modern Dalmatic; a sort of Surplice in the form of a bell-shaped Mantle, with a hole for the head, which necessitated the arms sticking out under the hem.

The Death of St. Bede, the Monastic Clergy are wearing Surplices over their Cowls (original painting at Saint Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, Durham, England). Death of Saint Bede - Project Gutenberg eText 16785. From The Project Gutenberg EBook of Our Catholic Heritage in English Literature of Pre-Conquest Days, by Emily Hickey.
(Wikimedia Commons)

In the Roman tradition, the Surplice (or "Cotta") sometimes features lace decoration or embroidered bordures, but is most typically plainly hemmed. The lace or embroidery, if present, will often be in the form of inserts set a few inches above the edge of the hem or sleeves.

The Surplice is meant to be a miniature Alb, the Alb itself being the symbol of the white garment received at Baptism. As such, it is appropriately worn by any Cleric, by Lectors and Acolytes, or indeed by Altar Servers who are technically standing in for instituted Acolytes for any Liturgical Service. It is often worn, for instance, by Seminarians when attending Mass and by non-Clerical Choirs. It is usually worn over a Cassock and never alone, nor is it ever gathered by a belt or Cincture.

It may be worn under a Stole by Deacons and Priests for Liturgical ceremonies or the celebration of Sacraments outside of Mass. On occasion, a Cope is worn over the Cassock, Surplice and Stole.

As part of the Choir Dress of the Clergy, it is normally not worn by Prelates (the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Monsignori, and some Canons) - instead, these Clerics wear the Rochet, which is in fact a variant of the Surplice.

The Surplice belongs to the “Vestes Sacræ” (Sacred Vestments), though it requires no Benediction before it is worn.


  1. So that's how to spell cotta ... :0)

  2. Good Evening, John. As always, good to hear from you.

    I take it you are more used to the Welsh spelling of Cotta ?

    Which is . . ?

    Good luck with the house move. Shouldn't be too long now ?

    in Domino


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