Pulpit robes on display. | Image source: Screen grab from YouTube
A pulpit robe—otherwise known as a Geneva gown—is something which we see in a lot of churches and parishes. But what are these robes for and why do they exist in the first place? And how are they different from other robes used by members of the clergy?
Traditionally, pulpit robes—which bear a resemblance to modern judicial attire—are worn by those ordained, to display the solemnity of God’s message towards the people. Pulpit robes arose from the Protestant Reformation, adopted by Churches which stemmed from the movement.
In such a case, they are worn over common clothes and are used in situations such as vespers and worship which consist of scripture reading, with the option of wearing other accessories such as preaching bands and liturgical stoles. Nowadays, they are mostly donned over business attire without a clerical collar.
There are also cases where pulpit robes are placed over cassocks. In such a case, the cassock is usually black to either blend or create a contrast with the robe.
The robe draws attention not to the person, but to the wearer’s office, indicating that it’s meant to humble an individual into spreading the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God.
Clergy members with high educational attainment include chevrons on their robes to signify their title or standing. These cover individuals who focus on theological disciplines or liberal arts and sciences in their respective fields.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, pulpit robes or Geneva gowns are almost non-existent. Aside from choir robes inspired by Geneva garments, the Church never really adopted the attire, as it had been an offshoot of the Reformation.
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