Anglican ministers can wear a wide variety of special clothes. There is however,
a wide variety of practice within the Anglican Church of Australia, with some ministers
wearing very formal clothes and others informal ones the same as members of their
Probably the most common special article of clothing is the "clerical collar".
Many ministers wear these when leading services, visiting, or just for general use.
It is when they are leading services that many Anglican ministers wear special clothes
or "vestments" as they are known. Once again, the type of vestments varies
significantly from place to place and church to church.
(From an article in Anglican Encounter, November 2000, by Sally Gero)
Vestments means "official dress" or "robes", and can refer to
any type of ceremonial clothing worn not only by clergy, but by anyone in a ceremonial
capacity. In the early days of the church no special clothing was worn, apart from
a long white garment put on at baptism to signify "putting on Christ".
The long white garment worn in Roman society by professional people did not become
a specifically Christian vestment until the fifth century, although Jerome (341-420
CE) distinguishes between everyday clothes and a special 'suit of clean clothes'
for church wear. By the fifth century, priests and bishops were wearing the long
white garment called the alb (meaning 'white' as in albino and albatross).
A rope girdle or 'cincture' was added later, as was the stole. This is the
long strip of material, like a scarf, often with religious symbols or decorations.
A deacon wears the stole over the left shoulder, priests and bishops wear it with
the ends handing down the front. Since the Reformation, when the colours of the
liturgical year were fixed, stoles have usually been in liturgical colours. The
origins of the stole are unclear - it may have originally been a garland worn at
Over their alb Romans wore a conical tent-shaped garment with a hole cut out for
the head, called a 'casula' ('little house') outdoors, and indoors for special occasions.
We know it as the chasuble. It didn't become a vestment until about the ninth
century, when in the West it was accepted that the priest or bishop presiding at
the Eucharist wore a chasuble over their alb. It is generally in the appropriate
liturgical colour, and may be decorated with strips of embroidered fabric or tapestry
called orphreys, or with other liturgical symbols.
A cassock, an ankle length garment with long narrow sleeves, is not itself
a vestment but is universally worn under all eucharistic vestments. Its Latin name
'subtanea' (soutaine) indicates that it is an undergarment - however, it is worn
as an outer garment. In 1602, the Anglican church law forbade clergy to go out in
public "in the doublet and hose without coats or cassocks." The cassock
is not only worn by priests, although in black it has always been the basic item
of a priest's attire. Today, bishops wear purple cassocks, while cathedral choirs
and others can be seen wearing red.
The Anglican Church uses a range of colours to mark the different seasons
of the Church year. Colours of vestments, altar cloths and other decorations change
during the year, often with considerable variation from parish to parish. Consequently:
- the colour of Advent is blue or violet to symbolise spiritual preparation;
- the colour Christmas and Epiphany is white or gold symbolising joy and purity;
- the colour of Lent is purple or natural-coloured linens to symbolise mourning and penitence;
- the colour of Holy Week is red symbolising blood;
- the colour of Easter is white;
- the colour for the day of Pentecost is red symbolising fire.
- When there is no feast being observed, green is the ordinary colour and symbolic of Gods goodness to us in creation.
- White is also used weddings, funerals and saint's days while red is
used for ordinations and the commemoration of martyrs.
At the Reformation (16th century), much simpler dress became the norm in the Church
of England. The alb was replaced by the shorter white gown with wide sleeves called
the surplice which was worn over the cassock. Originally it was ankle length,but
by the Reformation, it had been progressively shortened. In a shortened form today,
sometimes decorated with embroidery or lace, it is known as the cotta.
The dalmatic is a tunic shaped vestment in the liturgical colour of the season
or occasion, worn by a deacon assisting at the Eucharist. It was originally a garment
worn by officials of the Roman Empire but was adapted by deacons who had the care
of the widows and sick, and has remained a deacon's garment. It is often decorated
with two orphreys (embroidered fabric or tapestry strips) running vertically front
to back, over the shoulder and connected by two horizontal orphreys.
A tippett is a black scarf, with ends that hand down, that can be worn at
the daily prayers. Some Anglican clergy wear this instead of a stole.
The mitre is the bishop's hat. It is though to have evolved its shape from
being copied by early Christian bishops from the shape of Hebrew priests' headwear.
An adaptation was made, in the divided shape being representative of the tongues
of fire that came down on the disciples' heads at Pentecost.
The crosier, like a shepherd's crook is carried by the bishop to remind us
tat the bishop if chief shepherd of Christ's flock in this place.