aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils
« Prev Excursus on the Vestments of the Early Church. Next »

Excursus on the Vestments of the Early Church.

It would be out of place to enter into any specific treatment of the different vestments worn by the clergy in the performance of their various duties.  For a full discussion of this whole matter I must refer my readers to the great writers on liturgical and kindred matters, especially to Cardinal Bona, De Rebus Liturgicis; Pugin, Ecclesiastical Glossary; Rock, Church of our Fathers; Hefele, Beiträge zu Kircheschichte, Archäologie und Liturgik (essay in Die Liturgischen Gervänder, vol. ij. p. 184 sqq.).  And I would take this opportunity of warning the student against the entirely unwarranted conclusions of Durandus’s Rationale Divinorum Officiorum and of Marriott’s Vestiarium Christianum.

The manner in which the use of the stole is spoken of in this canon shews not only the great antiquity of that vestment but of other ecclesiastical vestments as well.  Before, however, giving the details of our knowledge with regard to this particular vestment I shall need no apology for quoting a passage, very germane to the whole subject, from the pen of that most delightful writer Curzon, to whose care and erudition all scholars and students of manuscripts are so deeply indebted.

(Robert Curzon, Armenia, p. 202.)

Here I will remark that the sacred vestures of the Christian Church are the same, with very insignificant modifications, among every denomination of Christians in the world; that they have always been the same, and never were otherwise in any country, from the remotest times when we have any written accounts of them, or any mosaics, sculptures, or pictures to explain their forms.  They are no more a Popish invention, or have anything more to do with the Roman Church, than any other usage which is common to all denominations of Christians.  They are and always have been, of general and universal—that is, of Catholic—use; they have never been used for many centuries for ornament or dress by the laity, having been considered as set apart to be used only by priests in the church during the celebration of the worship of Almighty God.

Thus far the very learned Curzon.  As is natural the distinctive dress of the bishops is the first that we hear of, and that in connexion with St. John, who is said to have worn a golden mitre or fillet.195195    Eusebius.  Hist. Eccl., v. 24.

(Duchesne, Origines du Culte Chrétien, p. 376 et sqq.)

It was not the bishops alone who were distinguished by insignia from the other ecclesiastics.  Priests and deacons had their distinctive insignia as well.  There was, however, a difference between Rome and the rest of the world in this matter.  At Rome it would seem that but little favour was extended at first to these marks of rank; the letter of Pope Celestine to the bishops shews this already.  But what makes it evident still more clearly, is that the orarium of the priest and of the deacon, looked upon as a visible and distinctive mark of these orders, was unknown at Rome, at least down to the tenth century, while it had been adopted everywhere else.

To be sure, the orarium is spoken of in the ordines of the ninth century; but from these it is also evident that this vestment was worn by acolytes and subdeacons, as well as by the superior clergy, and that its place was under the top vestment, whether dalmatic or chasuble, and not over it.  But that orarium is nothing more than the ancient sweat-cloth (sudarium), the handkerchief, or cravat which has ended up by taking a special form and even by becoming an accessory of a ceremonial vestment:  but it is not an insignia.  I know no Roman representation of this earlier than the twelfth century.  The priests and deacons who figure in the mosaics never display this detail of costume.

But such is not the case elsewhere.  Towards the end of the fourth century, the Council of Laodicea in Phrygia forbade inferior classes, subdeacons, readers, etc., to usurp the orarium.  St. Isidore of Pelusium knew it as somewhat analogous to the episcopal pallium, except that it was of linen, while the pallium was of wool.  The sermon on the Prodigal Son, sometimes attributed to St. John Chrysostom [Migne’s Ed., vol. viij., 520], uses the same term, ὀθόνη; it adds that this piece of dress was worn over the left shoulder, and that as it swung back and forth it called to mind the wings of the angels.

The deacons among the Greeks wear the stole in this fashion down to to-day, perfectly visible, over the top of the upper vestment, and fastened upon the left shoulder.  Its ancient name (ὠράριον) still clings to it.  As for the orarium of the priests it is worn, like the stole of Latin priests, round the neck, the two ends falling in front, almost to the feet.  This is called the epitrachilion (ἐπιτραχήλιον).

These distinctions were also found in Spain and Gaul.  The Council of Braga, in 561, ordered that deacons should wear these oraria, not under the tunicle, which caused them to be confounded with the subdeacon, but over it, over the shoulder.  The Council of Toledo, in 633, describes the orarium as the common mark of the three superior orders, bishops, priests, and deacons; and specifies that the deacon should wear his over his left shoulder, and that it should be white, without any mixture of colours or any gold embroidery.  Another Council of Braga forbade priests to say mass without having a stole around their necks and crossed upon the breast, exactly as Latin priests wear it to-day.  St. Germanus of Paris speaks of the insignia of a bishop and of a deacon; to the first he assigns the name of pallium, and says that it is worn around the neck, and falls down upon the breast where it ends with a fringe.  As for the insignia of a deacon he calls it a stole (stola); and says that deacons wear it over the alb.  This fashion of wearing the stole of the deacon spread during the middle ages over nearly the whole of Italy and to the very gates of Rome.  And even at Rome the ancient usage seems to have been maintained with a compromise.  They ended up by adopting the stole for deacons and by placing it over the left shoulder, but they covered it up with the dalmatic or the chasuble.

The priest’s stole was also accepted:  and in the mosaics of Sta. Maria in Trastevere is seen a priest ornamented with this insignia.  It is worthy of notice that the four popes who are represented in the same mosaic wear the pallium but no stole.  The one seems to exclude the other.  And as a matter of fact the ordines of the ninth century in describing the costume of the pope omit always the stole.  One can readily understand that who bore one of these insignia should not wear the other.

However, they ended by combining them, and at Ravenna, where they always had a taste for decorations, bishop Ecclesius in the mosaics of San Vitale wears both the priest’s stole and the Roman pallium.  This, however, seems to be unique, and his successors have the pallium only.  The two are found together again in the Sacramentary of Autun (Vide M. Lelisle’s reproduction in the Gazette Archéologique, 1884, pl. 20), and on the paliotto of St. Ambrose of Milan; such seems to have been the usage of the Franks.

In view of these facts one is led to the conclusion that all these insignia, called pallium, omophorion, orarium, stole, epitrachilion, have the same origin.  They are the marks of dignity, introduced into church usage during the fourth century, analogous to those which the Theodosian code orders for certain kinds of civil functionaries.  For one reason or another the Roman Church refused to receive these marks, or rather confined itself to the papal pallium, which then took a wholly technical signification.  But everywhere else, this mark of the then superior orders of the hierarchy was adopted, only varying slightly to mark the degree, the deacon wearing it over the left shoulder, the bishop and priest around the neck, the deacon over the tunicle which is his uppermost vestment, the priest under the chasuble; the bishop over his chasuble.  196196    What follows down to the next asterisk is a foot-note to p. 379 of Duchesne’s book.However, for this distinction between a bishop and priest we have very little evidence.  The Canon of III Braga, already cited, which prescribes that priests shall wear the stole crossed over the breast, presupposes that it is worn under the chasuble, but the council understands that this method of wearing it pertains distinctively to priests, and that bishops have another method which they should observe; for the word sacerdotes, used by the council, includes bishops as well as priests.  The rest of the Spanish ecclesiastical literature gives us no information upon the point.  In Gaul, St. Germanus of Paris (as we have seen) speaks of the episcopal pallium after having described the chasuble, which makes one believe that it was worn on top.  I have already said that Bishop Ecclesius of Ravenna is represented with the stole pendant before, under the chasuble and at the same time with the pallium on top of it; and that this usage was adopted in France in the Carlovingian times.  Greek bishops also wear at the same time the epitrachilion and the omophorion.  This accumulation of insignia was forbidden in Spain in the seventh century (Vide IV Toledo, Canon XXXIX), and (as we have stated) the Pope abstained from it until about the twelfth century, contenting himself with the pallium without adding to it the stole.*

The pallium, with the exception of the crosses which adorn its ends, was always white; so too was the deacon’s stole and also that of the priest and bishop.  The pallium was always and everywhere made of wool; in the East the deacon’s stole was of linen; I cannot say of what material the priest’s and deacon’s stole was in the West.


« Prev Excursus on the Vestments of the Early Church. Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |