Surplice

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The Death of St. Bede, the monastic clergy are wearing surplices over their cowls (original painting at St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw). Death of St Bede - Project Gutenberg eText 16785.jpg
The Death of St. Bede , the monastic clergy are wearing surplices over their cowls (original painting at St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw).
Noble canonnesse of Nivelles in Choir dress Coustumes - Chanoinesses de Nivelles.png
Noble canonnesse of Nivelles in Choir dress
Seminarian vested in a pleated Roman-style surplice with lace inserts, holding a thurible. Priest or seminarian with thurible.jpg
Seminarian vested in a pleated Roman-style surplice with lace inserts, holding a thurible.
An Anglican priest wearing a cassock, academic hood, English-style surplice, and tippet as his choir dress. Choirhabit.jpg
An Anglican priest wearing a cassock, academic hood, English-style surplice, and tippet as his choir dress.

A surplice ( /ˈsɜːrplɪs/ ; Late Latin superpelliceum, from super, "over" and pellicia, "fur garment") is a liturgical vestment of the Western Christian Church. 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.

Late Latin Written Latin of late antiquity

Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of late antiquity. English dictionary definitions of Late Latin date this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD, and continuing into the 7th century in the Iberian Peninsula. This somewhat ambiguously defined version of Latin was used between the eras of Classical Latin and Medieval Latin. There is no scholarly consensus about exactly when Classical Latin should end or Medieval Latin should begin. However, Late Latin is characterized by an identifiable style.

Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy.

Vestment clothing prescribed for Christian clergy performing specific roles

Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among the Eastern Orthodox, 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.

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It was originally a long garment with open sleeves reaching nearly to the ground. As it remains in the Western Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran 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, however, typically do not make the distinction between the two styles and refer to both as a "surplice".

Medieval Latin Form of Latin used in the Middle Ages

Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying degrees. Latin functioned as the main medium of scholarly exchange, as the liturgical language of the Church, and as the working language of science, literature, law, and administration.

Origin and variation

It seems most probable that the surplice first appeared in France or England, 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. [1]

The Gallican Rite is a historical version of Christian liturgy and other ritual practices in Western Christianity. It is not a single rite but a family of rites within the Latin Church, which comprised the majority use of most of Western Christianity for the greater part of the 1st millennium AD. The rites first developed in the early centuries as the Syriac-Greek rites of Jerusalem and Antioch and were first translated into Latin in various parts of the Western Roman Empire Praetorian prefecture of Gaul. By the 5th century, it was well established in the Roman civil diocese of Gaul, an early center of Christianity. Ireland too is known to have had a form of this Gallican Liturgy mixed with Celtic customs.

Roman Rite Most widespread liturgical rite in the Latin Church

The Roman Rite is the main or Western liturgical rite of the Roman Catholic Church, the main particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It is the most widespread liturgical rite in Christianity as a whole. The Roman Rite gradually became the predominant rite used by the Western Church, developed out of many local variants from Early Christianity on, not amounting to distinctive rites, that existed in the medieval manuscripts, but have been progressively reduced since the invention of printing, most notably since the reform of liturgical law in the 16th century at the behest of the Council of Trent (1545–63) and more recently following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).

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:

Continental Europe continent of Europe, excluding European islands

Continental or mainland Europe is the continuous continent of Europe, excluding its surrounding islands. It can also be referred to ambiguously as the European continent – which can conversely mean the whole of Europe – and by Europeans, simply the Continent.

Dalmatic long, wide sleeved tunic, worn in Ancient Rome and Byzantium, and adopted as liturgical dress by Christian churches

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 or other services. Although infrequent, it may also be worn by bishops above the alb and below the chasuble, and is then referred to as pontifical dalmatic.

Robe loose-fitting outer garment, worn in many historical periods and contexts

A robe is a loose-fitting outer garment. Unlike garments described as capes or cloaks, robes usually have sleeves. The English word robe derives from Middle English robe ("garment"), borrowed from Old French robe, itself taken from the Frankish word *rouba, and is related to the word rob.

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.

Synod council of a church

A synod is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word synod comes from the Greek σύνοδος (sýnodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word concilium meaning "council". Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

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.

Roman Catholicism

In the Roman tradition, the surplice (or "cotta") sometimes features 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.

Anglicanism

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.

A school choir wearing surplices over cassocks School choir.jpg
A school choir wearing surplices over cassocks

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. [2]

Lutheranism

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. [3]

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. [4]

Paleo-Orthodox and emerging church movements

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

Cassock ankle-length garment worn as Christian clerical clothing

The cassock or soutane is an item of Christian clerical clothing used by the clergy of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed churches, among others. "Ankle-length garment" is the literal meaning of the corresponding Latin term, vestis talaris. It is related to the habit, which is traditionally worn by nuns, monks, and friars.

Stole (vestment) long narrow cloth band worn around the neck and falling from the shoulders as part of ecclesiastical dress

The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations. It consists of a band of colored cloth, formerly 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. 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 a cross or some other 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.

Chasuble vestment in the form of a wide cloak or mantle that slips over the wearers head and hangs open at the sides

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.

Alb long, full, close-sleeved garments worn by Christan clergy

The alb, one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist 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.

Cope semicircular liturgical mantle

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.

Girdle womens underwear, often partly or entirely of elastic or boned, for supporting and shaping the appearance of the abdomen, hips, and buttocks

The term girdle, meaning "belt", commonly refers to the liturgical attire that normally closes a cassock in many Christian denominations, including the Anglican Communion, Methodist Church and Lutheran Church. The girdle, in the 8th or 9th century, was said to resemble an ancient Levitical Jewish vestment, and in that era, was not visible. In 800 AD, the girdle began to be worn by Christian deacons in the Eastern Church.

Geneva gown

The Geneva gown, also called a pulpit gown, pulpit robe, or preaching robe, is an ecclesiastical garment customarily worn by ordained ministers in the Christian churches that arose out of the historic Protestant Reformation. It is particularly associated with Protestant churches of the Reformed and Methodist tradition.

Rochet white knee-length vestment generally worn by a Roman Catholic or Anglican bishop in choir dress, often trimmed with lace

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.

Chimere Chimère

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 services. Practices vary: 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.

Clerical collar detachable collar worn by Christian clergy

A clerical collar, clergy collar, or Roman collar, is an item of Christian clerical clothing. The collar closes at the back of the neck, presenting a seamless front. The shirt may have the collar built in. The clerical tab is almost always white and was originally made of cotton or linen but is now frequently made of plastic. Sometimes it is attached with a collaret or collarino that covers the white collar almost completely, except for a small white square at the base of the throat, and sometimes with the top edge of the collar exposed to mimic the collar of a cassock. It may simply be a detachable tab of white in the front of the clerical shirt. The clerical shirt is traditionally black, but today is available in a variety of colors depending on the wearer's preference. Once the clerical collar is removed the garment is indistinguishable from any other shirt. When clergy are delivering sermons, they sometimes attach preaching bands to their clerical collar.

Pectoral cross cross worn on the chest by Christian clergy of various denominations

A pectoral cross or pectorale is a cross that is worn on the chest, usually suspended from the neck by a cord or chain. In ancient and medieval times pectoral crosses were worn by both clergy and laity, but by the end of the Middle Ages the pectoral cross came to be a special indicator of position worn by bishops. In the Catholic Church, the wearing of a pectoral cross remains restricted to popes, cardinals, bishops and abbots. The modern pectoral cross is relatively large, and is different from the small crosses worn on necklaces by many Christians. Most pectoral crosses are made of precious metals and some contain precious or semi-precious gems. Some contain a corpus like a crucifix while others use stylized designs and religious symbols.

Choir dress a traditional costume of clerics, seminarians and religious of Christian churches

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 Churches which originated in the sixteenth-century Reformation.

Mozzetta elbow-length cape that covers the shoulders and is buttoned over the chest, worn by some Roman Catholic clergy

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 mozzette 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.

Tippet a pendant streamer hanging from the sleeve of a cotehardie

A tippet is a scarf-like narrow piece of clothing, worn over the shoulders. It may also be likened to a stole in the secular rather than ecclesiastic sense of this word. Tippets evolved in the fourteenth century from long sleeves and typically had one end hanging down to the knees. 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.

The cassock-alb or cassalb is a relatively modern garment and is a combination of the traditional cassock and alb. It developed as a convenient undergarment worn by clergy and as an alternative to the alb for deacons and acolytes.

Ferraiolo formal, non-liturgical mantle traditionally worn by Roman Catholic clergy

The ferraiolo is a type of cape traditionally worn by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church on formal, non-liturgical occasions. It can be worn over the shoulders, or behind them, extends in length to the ankles, is tied in a bow by narrow strips of cloth at the front, and does not have any 'trim' or piping on it.

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.

References

  1. PD-icon.svg Braun, Joseph (1913). "Surplice". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Cairncross, H; et al. (1935). Ritual Notes (8th ed.). London: W. Knott. pp. 176–177.
  3. Stauffer, Anita S. (2000). Altar Guild and Sacristy Handbook. Minneapolis: Augsburg-Fortress. p. 30.
  4. Bastanier, Ernst Ferdinand Eberhard. "Wider den schwarzen Talar" [Against the Black Talar]. Quatemberg (in German).