A surplice ( /ˈsɜːrplɪs/ ; Late Latin superpelliceum, from super, "over" and pellicia, "fur garment") is a liturgical vestment of Western Christianity. The surplice is in the form of a tunic of white linen or cotton fabric, reaching to the knees, with wide or moderately wide sleeves.
It was originally a long garment with open sleeves reaching nearly to the ground. As it remains in the Western Christian traditions, the surplice often has shorter, closed sleeves and square shoulders. Anglicans typically refer to a Roman-style surplice with the Medieval Latin term cotta (meaning "cut-off' in Italian), as it is derived from the cut-off alb. English-speaking Catholics typically do not make the distinction between the two styles and refer to both as a "surplice".
It seems most probable that the surplice first appeared in France or England, from whence its use gradually spread to Italy . It is possible that there is a connection between the surplice and the Gallican or Celtic alb, an ungirdled liturgical tunic of the old Gallican Rite, which was superseded during the Carolingian era by the Roman Rite. The founding of the Augustinian Canons in the second half of the eleventh century may have had a special influence upon the spread of the surplice. Among the Augustinian Canons the surplice was not only the choir vestment, but also a part of the habit of the order. 
The surplice originally reached to the feet, but as early as the 13th century it began to shorten, though as late as the 15th century it still fell to the middle of the shin, and only in the 17th and 18th centuries in Continental Europe did it become considerably shorter. In several localities it underwent more drastic modifications in the course of time, which led to the appearance of various subsidiary forms alongside the original type. For example:
The first two of these forms developed very early; and, in spite of their prohibition by synods here and there (for example that of Liège circa 1287), they survive in various places to the present day. The latter two only appeared after the close of the Middle Ages: the first of them in South Germany, the second more especially in Venetia, where numerous pictorial records attest its use. As a rule, however, only the lower clergy wore these subsidiary forms of surplice. They came about partly under the influence of secular fashions, but more particularly for convenience.
Lack of exact information obscures the older history of the surplice. Its name derives, as Durandus and Gerland also affirm, from the fact that its wearers formerly put it on over the fur garments formerly worn in church during divine service as a protection against the cold. The word derived its name from the Medieval Latin word superpellicium which divides into super, "over", and pellicia, "fur garment".
Some scholars trace the use of the surplice at least as far back as the 5th century, citing the evidence of the garments worn by the two clerics in attendance on Bishop Maximian represented in the mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale at Ravenna; in this case, however, confusing the dalmatic with the surplice.
In all probability the surplice forms no more than an expansion of the ordinary liturgical alb, due to the necessity for wearing it over thick furs. The first documents to mention the surplice date from the 11th century: a canon of the Synod of Coyaca in Spain (1050); and an ordinance of King Edward the Confessor. Rome knew the surplice at least as early as the 12th century. It probably originated outside Rome, and was imported thence into the Roman use. Originally only a choir vestment and peculiar to the lower clergy, it gradually—certainly no later than the 13th century—replaced the alb as the vestment proper to the administering of the sacraments and other sacerdotal functions.
The Eastern Churches do not use a surplice or any analogous vestment. Of the non-Roman Catholic Churches in the West the surplice has continued in regular use in the Lutheran churches, in the Anglican Communion, and among various Old Catholic denominations among others.
In the Roman tradition, the surplice (or "cotta") sometimes features liturgical lace decoration or embroidered bordures.
The surplice is meant to be a miniature alb, the alb itself being the symbol of the white garment received at Baptism. As such, it is appropriately worn by any cleric, by lectors and acolytes, or indeed by altar servers who are technically standing in for instituted acolytes for any liturgical service. It is often worn, for instance, by seminarians when attending Mass and by non-clerical choirs. It is usually worn over a cassock and never alone, nor is it ever gathered by a belt or cincture.
It may be worn under a stole by deacons and priests for liturgical ceremonies or the celebration of sacraments outside of Mass. On occasion, a cope is worn over the cassock, surplice and stole.
As part of the choir dress of the clergy, it is normally not worn by prelates (the pope, cardinals, bishops, monsignori, and some canons)—instead, these clerics wear the rochet, which is in fact a variant of the surplice.
The surplice belongs to the vestes sacrae (sacred vestments), though it requires no benediction before it is worn.
The second Anglican Prayer Book, that of Edward VI in 1552, prescribed the surplice as, with the tippet or the academic hood, the sole vestment of the minister of the church at "all times of their ministration", the rochet being practically regarded as the episcopal surplice. The more extreme Reformers furiously assailed its use, but in spite of their efforts, Elizabeth's Act of Uniformity (1559) retained the garment, and the advertisements and injunctions issued under her authority enforced its use, though they ordered the destruction of the "massing vestments"—chasubles, albs, stoles and the like. Copes survived this destruction as they were not considered "superstitious," having no explicit symbolic formula like the other vestments.
Until 1965, the surplice had remained, with the exception of the cope, the sole vestment authorised by law for the ministers, other than bishops, of the Church of England (for the question of the vestments prescribed by the "Ornaments Rubric" see vestment). And apart from clerks in Holy Orders, all the "ministers" (including vicars-choral and choristers) of cathedral and collegiate churches, as well as the fellows and scholars of colleges in chapel have worn surplices since the Reformation.
The clergy have employed as a distinctive mark the tippet or scarf mentioned above, a broad band of black stuff or silk worn stole-wise, but not to be confused with the stole, since it has no liturgical significance and originally formed a mere part of the clerical outdoor dress for high ranking or degree-holding clerics. Formerly the clergy only wore the surplice when conducting the service, and exchanged it during the sermon for the "black gown", i.e. either a Geneva gown or the gown of an academic degree. This custom has, however, as a result of the High Church movement, become almost completely obsolete. The "black gown", considered wrongly as the ensign of Low Church views, survives in comparatively few even of evangelical churches; however, preachers of university sermons retained the custom of wearing the gown of their degree.
The traditional form of the surplice in the Church of England survived from pre-Reformation times: a wide-sleeved, very full, plain, white linen tunic, pleated from the yoke, and reaching almost, or quite, to the feet. Towards the end of the 17th century, when large wigs came into fashion, it became convenient to have surplices constructed gown-wise, open down the front and buttoned at the neck, a fashion which still partially survives, notably at the universities. In general, however, the tendency followed continental influence, and curtailed the surplice's proportions. The ample vestment with falling folds has thus in many churches given place to an unpleated garment reaching to the knee. In some Anglo-Catholic churches, the surplices follow the style of the Roman cotta. Cottas may in some churches be worn by servers and members of the choir and clergy may wear surplices in services where they do not wear eucharistic vestments. 
Traditionally, the surplice is used for non-sacramental services, worn over the cassock, such as morning prayer, Vespers, and Compline without Eucharist. The surplice is traditionally full-length in the arm and hangs at least down to the knee. 
In German Lutheran and United Churches, where the black academic gown with preaching bands have commonly been in use since the early 19th century, the surplice is sometimes worn over the academic gown and preaching bands as a 'compromise' between the black gown, which has become a symbol of Protestantism among Germans, and the traditional Christian symbol of white for grace and the sacrament. 
Among the paleo-orthodoxy and emerging church movements in Protestant and evangelical churches, particularly Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian, many clergy are reclaiming not only the traditional Eucharist vestments of alb and chasuble, but also cassock and surplice (typically a full length Old English style) with appropriate liturgical stole, and cassock and Geneva gown for a Liturgy or Service of the Word.[ citation needed ]
Subdeacon is a minor order or ministry for men in various branches of Christianity. The subdeacon has a specific liturgical role and is placed between the acolyte and the deacon in the order of precedence.
The cassock or soutane is a Christian clerical clothing coat used by the clergy and male religious of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, in addition to some clergy in certain Protestant denominations such as Anglicans and Lutherans. "Ankle-length garment" is the literal meaning of the corresponding Latin term, vestis talaris. It is related to the habits traditionally worn by nuns, monks, and friars.
Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially by Eastern Churches, Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. Many other groups also make use of liturgical garments; this was a point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation and sometimes since, in particular during the ritualist controversies in England in the 19th century.
The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations, which symbolizes priestly authority; in Protestant denominations which do not have priests but use stoles as a liturgical vestment, however, it symbolizes being a member of the ordained. It consists of a band of colored cloth, usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out in the shape of a spade or bell. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with two crosses, or sometimes another significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38–39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard, which can be replaced more cheaply than the stole itself.
The chasuble is the outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist in Western-tradition Christian churches that use full vestments, primarily in Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and in the Eastern Catholic Churches, the equivalent vestment is the phelonion.
The dalmatic is a long, wide-sleeved tunic, which serves as a liturgical vestment in the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, United Methodist, and some other churches. When used, it is the proper vestment of a deacon at Mass, Holy Communion or other services such as baptism or marriage held in the context of a Eucharistic service. Although infrequent, it may also be worn by bishops above the alb and below the chasuble, and is then referred to as pontifical dalmatic.
The alb, one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Congregational churches, is an ample white garment coming down to the ankles and is usually girdled with a cincture. It is simply the long, white linen tunic used by the ancient Romans.
The cope is a liturgical vestment, more precisely a long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. It may be of any liturgical colour.
The Geneva Gown, also called a pulpit gown, pulpit robe, or preaching robe, is an ecclesiastical garment customarily worn by Ordained Ministers and Accredited Lay Preachers in the Christian Churches that arose out of the historic Protestant Reformation. It is particularly associated with Protestant Churches of the Reformed, Methodist, Unitarian and Free Christian traditions.
A rochet is a white vestment generally worn by a Roman Catholic or Anglican bishop in choir dress. It is unknown in the Eastern churches. The rochet in its Roman form is similar to a surplice, except that the sleeves are narrower. In its Anglican form it is a descendant of the traditional albs worn by deacons and priests. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the rochet comes below the knee and its sleeves and hem are sometimes made of lace; in the Anglican tradition, the rochet comes down almost to the hem of the cassock and its sleeves are gathered at the wrist.
A chimere is a garment worn by Anglican bishops in choir dress, and, formally as part of academic dress.
Clerical clothing is non-liturgical clothing worn exclusively by clergy. It is distinct from vestments in that it is not reserved specifically for use in the liturgy. Practices vary: clerical clothing is sometimes worn under vestments, and sometimes as the everyday clothing or street wear of a priest, minister, or other clergy member. In some cases, it can be similar or identical to the habit of a monk or nun.
Choir dress is the traditional vesture of the clerics, seminarians and religious of Christian churches worn for public prayer and the administration of the sacraments except when celebrating or concelebrating the Eucharist. It differs from the vestments worn by the celebrants of the Eucharist, being normally made of fabrics such as wool, cotton or silk, as opposed to the fine brocades used in vestments. It may also be worn by lay assistants such as acolytes and choirs. It was abandoned by most of the Protestant churches that developed from the sixteenth-century Reformation.
The mozzetta is a short elbow-length sartorial vestment, a cape that covers the shoulders and is buttoned over the frontal breast area. It is worn over the rochet or cotta as part of choir dress by some of the clergy of the Catholic Church, among them the pope, cardinals, bishops, abbots, canons and religious superiors. There used to be a small hood on the back of the mozzetta of bishops and cardinals, but this was discontinued by Pope Paul VI. The hood, however, was retained in the mozzette of certain canons and abbots, and in that of the popes, often trimmed in satin, silk or ermine material.
A tippet is a piece of clothing worn over the shoulders in the shape of a scarf or cape. Tippets evolved in the fourteenth century from long sleeves and typically had one end hanging down to the knees. A tippet could also be the long, narrow, streamer-like strips of fabric worn as an armband just above the elbow, that hung gracefully to the knee or even the ground. In later fashion, a tippet is often any scarf-like wrap, usually made of fur, such as the sixteenth-century zibellino or the fur-lined capelets worn in the mid-18th century.
A religious habit is a distinctive set of religious clothing worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognizable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anchoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform style.
The "Ornaments Rubric" is found just before the beginning of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. It runs as follows:
"THE Morning and Evening Prayer shall be used in the accustomed Place of the Church, Chapel, or Chancel; except it shall be otherwise determined by the Ordinary of the Place. And the Chancels shalt remain as they have done in times past.
"And here is to be noted, that such Ornaments of the Church, and of the Ministers thereof, at all Times of their Ministration, shall be retained, and be in use, as were in this Church of England, by the Authority of Parliament, in the Second Year of the Reign of King Edward the Sixth."
The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ.
The cotte was a medieval outer garment, a long sleeved shift, or tunic, usually girded, and worn by men and women. In medieval texts, it was used to translate tunica or chiton. Synonyms included tunic or gown. It was worn over a shirt (chemise), and a sleeveless surcote could be worn over it. By the sixteenth century, it had become a woman's undergarment. By the seventeenth century, it split into an upper 'corps' and a lower 'cotte', or skirt, amongst the poorer classes.
The liturgical vestments of the Christian churches grew out of normal civil clothing, but the dress of church leaders began to be differentiated as early as the 4th century. By the end of the 13th century the forms used in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches had become established, while the Reformation led to changes in Protestant churches from the 16th century onward.