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From Costume of Prelates of the Catholic Church According to Roman Etiquette, by the Rev. John A. Nainfa, S. S.; Baltimore: Metropolitan Press, John Murphy Company, Publishers; 1909; pp. 32-34.




§1.  Different kinds of materials. — 2.  Velvet reserved for the Pope. — 3.  Other Materials Proper for the Pope. — 4.  Watered Silk. — 5.  Plain Silk. — 6.  Cloth and Other Woolen Materials. — 7.  Seasons.

1.  The various materials used for the ecclesiastical costume are, velvet, watered silk, plain silk, cloth and other woolen materials, as serge, merino (“drap d’éte”), etc.

2.  Velvet is exclusively reserved for the Pope. No ecclesiastic, whatever may be his dignity, is allowed to have any part of his costume made of this material.1 It is hardly necessary to remark that this principle is opposed to the practice of wearing a velvet biretta, and of ornamenting the cassock with a velvet collar or velvet cuffs.

Some old ceremonials, or other books dealing with ecclesiastical etiquette, generally of French or German origin, assert that velvet cuffs on the purple cassock of Bishops are a privilege of the “Assistants at the Pontifical Throne;” but this assertion has no foundation in law or practice.

3.  Besides velvet, the Pope makes use of silk, either watered or plain; but, among silk materials, satin likewise is exclusively reserved for him. In winter, he lays 33 aside his silk dress, and wears a light one of fine cloth. Both in winter and summer, he wears a dress of serge on penitential days.2

4.  Watered silk is reserved for Cardinals. They make use of this rich and beautiful material for the choir-cassock, cappa magna and mozzetta during summer. In winter, their cassocks and mozzette are of cloth.3

5.  Plain silk is the material of which the costumes of the Papal Court and Household are made.4 In summer, the Prelates di mantelletta and the Prelates di mantellone, whether they live at the Roman court or outside of the City, must wear a cassock of plain purple silk, and respectively, a mantelletta or a mantellone of the same material. Cloth replaces silk in winter.5

Those Bishops who have received the title of Assistants at the Pontifical Throne belong to the Papal Household and are, therefore, entitled to wear a silk costume, but only when they actually live in Rome. Outside of the papal city, they are not allowed to wear a dress different from that of other Bishops.6

6.  According to the Ceremonial of Bishops, cloth and other woollen materials only are allowed to be used in making the costumes of the Cardinals who belong to Religious Orders, of Archbishops, Bishops and Clergy. For them all, etiquette prescribes cloth in winter, and some lighter material, as merino, in summer.7


Although Archbishops and Bishops are not allowed to wear a silk dress, yet they may use that material for the accessories of their costumes, as collaro, skull-cap, cincture, stockings, etc.; but the silk must be plain; nobody, except Cardinals, being permitted to wear watered silk. A fortiori, velvet must be avoided.

7.  There are but two seasons in the year with regard to ecclesiastical dress, winter and summer. No rule, however, has been determined for the beginning or the end of these seasons. It is the Bishop who has to regulate this for his own diocese. Generally speaking, summer is supposed to begin about Easter, and winter, about All Saints Day.


1  BARBIER DE MONTAULT, Le costume et les usages ecclésiastiques. Tom. I., p. 53, seq. — The only exception is found in the costume of train-bearers; these wear a purple cassock with buttons and trimmings of black velvet; but this cassock is rather a livery-garment than a piece of ecclesiastical dress.

2  BARBIER DE MONTAULT, loc. cit. — BATTANDIER, Annuaire Pontifical, (1902), p. 104. — GRIMALDI, op. cit., ch. I., p. 6, seq. — Baron GERAMB, Visit to Rome, pp. 98-104.

3  BARBIER DE MONTAULT, op. cit., Tom. I., p. 54. — GRIMALDI, op. cit., ch. V., p. 60.   

4  Same references.

5  Same references.

6  BARBIER DE MONTAULT, ibid. — GRIMALDI, op. cit., ch. V., pp. 61, 62.

7  Caer. Episc. I., i., 1. — I., iii., 1. — Cap. Clerici, 45. De vita et hon. Cler. — BENEDICT XIII., Const. Custodes (March 7, 1725). — Un Evêque Suffragant, Le Cérémonial des Evêques commenté et expliqué. Liv. I., ch. I., p. 2.


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