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The pontifical vestments, also referred to as episcopal vestments or pontificals, are the liturgical vestments worn by bishops (and by concession some other prelates) in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran churches, in addition to the usual priestly vestments for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments. The pontifical vestments are only worn when celebrating or presiding over liturgical functions and should not be confused with choir dress, which is worn when attending liturgical functions but not celebrating or presiding.

Western Christianity

Roman Catholic bishop Hanníbal Aguirre Gamarra with the mitre, crosier, pectoral cross, and episcopal ring.

Pontifical tunic.

Pontifical shoes/sandals ~ 1517, treasury of the former Premonstratensian Abbey in Rüti ZH in Switzerland

The pontifical accoutrements usually include the:

and sometimes the

The following items are also reserved for episcipal functions:

Archbishops are also entitled to the use of the Patriarchal cross, also known as the archepiscopal cross. They may also wear the pallium if they are metropolitan bishops, once it has been received from the Pope.

The following accoutrements are most often used within the celebration of the Tridentine or Extraordinary Form of the Solemn Pontifical Mass although their use is also permitted for the Ordinary Form of the Mass:

When celebrating Mass, the bishop wears the stole and chasuble in the manner done by priests, and may wear the dalmatic beneath the chasuble, as a sign that he possesses the fullness of the Priesthood, and their link to the deaconate. The celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Eucharist includes the bishop's use of the subdeacon's tunicle worn under the dalmatic.

When presiding at, but not celebrating, Solemn Pontifical Mass (i.e. when attending formally but leaving the actual celebration to another bishop or priest), the bishop may wear a cope. The cope may also used by a bishop at Solemn Pontifical Vespers and when celebrating the sacraments of baptism, marriage, and confirmation; the cope may also be worn by priests or deacons for liturgical celebrations outside of Mass.

At any liturgical celebration, whether wearing chasuble (for Mass) or cope, the bishop may also wear a mitre, pectoral cross, and episcopal ring. He may also carry the crosier if the celebration is within his own diocese, although it has become common practice for bishops to do so outwith their own dioceses. In any liturgical gathering of Latin Rite bishops, only the celebrating (not concelebrating) bishop carries the crosier.

In Latin Rite usage, clergy other than bishops, today most notably abbots, may also wear pontifical items; the mitre, crosier and ring are bestowed on an abbot at his blessing and the pectoral cross is a customary part of an abbatial habit. There are limitations as to where and when abbots may wear pontificalia, for example only within his monastery. The practice of granting other clergy (e.g. the highest level of monsignor) special permission to wear such items as a mark of honour has almost disappeared.

Eastern Christianity

Greek-Catholic bishops celebrating the Divine Liturgy wearing their proper pontifical vestments.

The pontifical vestments in Eastern Christianity are somewhat similar, although Greek terms are used instead of the mainly Latinate forms used in the West. There are also certain vestments which are unique to the Christian East.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, bishops use the following vestments (worn over the priestly sticharion, epimanikia and epitrachelion) and implements:

The distinctive vestment of a bishop is the omophorion. There are two types of omophoria, the "Great Omophorion" which is worn at certain moments during the Divine Liturgy and at the Great Doxology at the All-Night Vigil, and the "Little Omophorion" which is worn at other times (note that the sticharion is worn only at Liturgy, while the epimanikia and epitrachelion are always worn when vesting).

The Sakkos is normally only worn when the bishop is celebrating the Divine Liturgy, or during the Great Doxology at the All-Night Vigil. At other services, or when he is "presiding" but not serving at Liturgy, he will wear the Mantya, a cape with a long train and red and white ribbons ("rivers") running along the sides.

Whenever he blesses, the bishop stands on an orletz ("eagle rug"), and at certain times he blesses using dikirion and trikirion. The dikirion is a candlestick with two candles symbolising the dogma of the two natures of Christ and trikirion has three candles symbolising the Trinity.

Eastern bishops do not normally make use of an ecclesiastical ring; instead, the lower clergy and faithful kiss the bishop's right hand as a sign of respect.

As in the Latin Rite, an hegumen (abbot) is presented with his crosier by the local bishop. The abbot usually wears a gold pectoral cross, and may be granted the right to wear a mitre. An archpriest may also be granted a gold pectoral cross. Archimandrites and protopresbyters wear jewelled pectoral crosses and mitres. The epigonation and/or nabrednnik may be worn by these members of the clergy, or may even be granted on their own as marks of honour to distinguished priests. The right to wear a pectoral cross or mitre may be bestowed upon other (lower) clergy as a sign of honour due to some outstanding achievement or dedication.

See also

This article incorporates text from the entry Vestments in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.