You've often attended so many mass services in your life that you commonly find yourself seeing priests don their distinct robes whenever they appear on the altar. But every so often, you might notice that priests would also wear rather curious-looking religious vestments and accessories and wondered what is their purpose or significance. This handy infographic highlights five of the most common pieces worn by priests so that you can get up to speed on the sartorial side of clergy members.
If you’ve noticed some bishops wearing a rather elaborate kind of hat during special Mass ceremonies, then the correct term for that religious accessory is “mitre”. The mitre is a common headdress used primarily by bishops for liturgical functions. It can either be classified as precious, golden (orphreyed), or simple (simplex) and each classification is intended for different occasions. The precious mitre is worn by celebrants, the simple mitre is worn by concelebrants, while the golden mitre is worn by the celebrant at an ordination.
Those long scarf-like pieces of fabric you see draped over a priest’s shoulders is what we call a “stole”. This is important because whenever you see a priest don this accessory, this signifies to the congregation that he is occupied with an official priestly duty such as celebrating Mass or administering the Sacraments.
One of the special robes worn by clergy members is what one calls an “alb”. The alb is a liturgical vestment made out of long white linen and is designed with tapered sleeves. It is commonly worn by priests during the Holy Mass, and it symbolizes the innocence and purity that should adorn the soul of the priest who ascends the altar. While the color of the alb is white in the Western Church, it can be rendered in any color in the Eastern Church.
Otherwise known as a “soutane”, the “cassock” is a common vestment worn by priests when they are not performing Mass services or perhaps attending extracurricular religious functions or events. The garment comes in a number of cuts and styles, though there is no particular symbolism that is related to these. The cassock often has thirty-three buttons—representing the years of Jesus’ life—down the front.
Another elaborate piece that is worn by clergy members is a garment known as the "chasuble”, which is a bell-shaped vestment intended to be put on over all the others during Liturgical services. Originally, this was designed to be a full-body garment reaching almost to the feet, but modern conventions have made the chasuble shorter in length so as not to be too cumbersome for the wearer.
And if you happen to be a member of the clergy interested in purchasing some of these key pieces to wear in your next Mass service, then feel free to check out the product range of the Churchgoers website, where our promise is to always make worship beautiful for less!