Friday, November 12, 2010

The Priest's Cassock

The Cassock, an item of clerical clothing, is an ankle-length robe worn by clerics of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Church.  Ankle-length garment is the meaning of the corresponding Latin term, vestis talaris. In Western Christianity the cassock is generally close-fitting, but in the Eastern Orthodox Church the outer cassock is quite loose.

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 GreeceThe 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 "kazhāgand" (padded garment) - "kazh" (raw silk) + "āgand" (stuffed).   In Ireland and in several other English-speaking countries, it is also known by the French-derived word soutane.

In the West, the cassock is little used today except for religious services; but in many countries it was the normal everyday 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 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).  

The ordinary Roman cassock worn by Catholic clerics is black except in tropical countries, where it is white. Coloured piping and buttons are added to the specific cassock: purple for that of chaplains of His Holiness; amaranth red for that of bishops, protonotaries apostolic and Honorary Prelates; and scarlet red for that of 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. The black faille fascia is worn by priests, deacons, and major seminarians, while the purple faille fascia is used by bishops, protonotaries apostolic, honorary prelates, and chaplains of His Holiness, when wearing a cassock with coloured trim. The black watered-silk fascia is permitted for priests who are attached to the papal household, the purple watered-silk fascia is permitted for bishops attached to the papal household (for example, Apostolic Nuncios), and the scarlet-watered silk fascia is 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 amaranth 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, the cardinal's entire choir cassock was made of scarlet silk moiré along with a train as well (some twenty-six inches which was later abolished by Pauline Motu Proprio in 1969)..

The general rule of the Roman Catholic Church is that the elbow-length shoulder cape, open at the front, worn with the cassock is permitted only for bishops and cardinals. But at the time of the restoration of the hierarchy in England and Ireland, Pope Pius IX was understood to grant this privilege to all priests in these countries. Since then, the wearing of the elbow-length shoulder cape with the cassock has been a sign of a Catholic priest in England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. The cassock of a bishop or cardinal with this shoulder cape is also called a simar.

1 comment:

Kim said...

This is so interesting and important to know!