Cope: Wikis


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Finely embroidered cope, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, 15th century. Note the shield-shaped "hood".

The cope (known in Latin as pluviale 'rain coat' or cappa 'cape') is a liturgical vestment, a very long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. It may be of any liturgical colour.

A cope may be worn by any rank of the clergy, and also by lay ministers in certain circumstances. If worn by a bishop, it is generally accompanied by a mitre. The clasp, which is often highly ornamented, is called a morse.



There has been little change in the character of the vestment from the earliest ages. Then as now it was made of a piece of silk or other cloth of semicircular shape, which distinguished it from the earlier form of chasuble, as a chasuble had straight edges sewn together in front. Both are similar in form and origin to the Orthodox phelonion.

The only noticeable modification which the cope has undergone lies in the disappearance of the hood. Some early examples feature a triangular hood, which was intended to be of practical utility in covering the head in processions, etc., but over time the hood became merely ornamental, and is commonly represented by a sort of shield of embroidery, sometimes adorned with a fringe or tassel. The fact that in many early chasubles, as depicted in the drawings of the eighth and ninth centuries, we see clear traces of a primitive hood, strongly confirms the view that in their origin cope and chasuble were identical, the chasuble being only a cope with its edges sewn together.

The earliest mention of a cappa is by St. Gregory of Tours, and in the Miracula of St. Furseus where it seems to mean a cloak with a hood. So from a letter written in 787 by Theodemar, Benedictine Abbot of Monte Cassino, in answer to a question of Charlemagne about the dress of the monk[1] we learn that what in Gaul was styled cuculla (cowl) was known to the Cassinese monks as cappa. Moreover the word occurs more than once in Alcuin's correspondence, apparently as denoting a garment for everyday wear. When Alcuin twice observes about a casula which was sent him, that he meant to wear it always at Mass, we may probably infer that such garments at this date were not distinctively liturgical owing to anything in their material or construction, but that they were set aside for the use of the altar at the choice of the owner, who might equally well have used them as part of his ordinary attire. In the case of the chasuble the process of liturgical specialization, was completed at a comparatively early date, and before the end of the ninth century the maker of a casula probably knew quite well in most cases whether he intended his handiwork for a Mass vestment or for an everyday outer garment. But in the case of a cappa or cope, this period of specialization seems to have been delayed until much later. The two hundred cappae or copes which appear in a Saint-Riquier inventory in the year 801, a number increased to 377 by the year 831, were thought to be mere cloaks, for the most part of rude material and destined for common wear. It may be that their use in choir was believed to add to the decorum and solemnity of the Divine Office, especially in the winter season. In 831 one of the Saint-Riquier copes is specially mentioned as being of chestnut colour and embroidered with gold. This, no doubt, implies use by a dignitary, but it does not prove that it was as yet regarded as a sacred vestment. In fact, according to the conclusions of Mr. Edmund Bishop, who was the first to sift the evidence thoroughly, it was not until the twelfth century that the cope, made of rich material, was in general use in the ceremonies of the Church, at which time it had come to be regarded as the special vestment of cantors.[2] Still, an ornamental cope was even then considered a vestment that might be used by any member of the clergy from the highest to the lowest, in fact even by one who was only about to be tonsured.

Amongst monks it was the practice to vest the whole community, except the celebrant and the sacred ministers who assisted the celebrant, in copes at High Mass on the greatest festivals, whereas on feasts of somewhat lower grade, the community were usually vested in albs. In this movement the Netherlands, France, and Germany had taken the lead, as we learn from extant inventories. For example, already in 870, in the Abbey of Saint Trond we find "thirty-three precious copes of silk" as against only twelve chasubles, and it was clearly the Cluny practice in the latter part of the tenth century to vest all the monks in copes during high Mass on the great feasts, though in England the regulations of Saint Dunstan and Saint Aethelwold show no signs of any such observance. The custom spread to the secular canons of such cathedrals as Rouen, and cantors nearly everywhere used copes of silk as their own peculiar adornment in the exercise of their functions.

Meanwhile the old cappa nigra (black cape), or cappa choralis, a choir cape of black material, open or partly open in front, and commonly provided with a functioning hood, still continued in use. While the cope was a liturgical vestment, made of rich, colorful fabric and often highly decorated, the cappa nigra was a practical garment, made of heavy plain black wool and designed to provide warmth in cold weather. Whereas the cope's hood had long since become a non-functional decorative item, the hood of the cappa nigra remained functional. The cappa nigra (black cape) was worn at the Divine Office by the clergy of cathedral and collegiate churches and also by many religious, as, for example, it is retained by the Dominicans during the winter months down to the present day. No doubt the "copes" of the friars, to which so many references in the Wycliffite literature and in the writings of Chaucer and Langland are found, designate their open mantles, which were, we may say, part of their full dress, though not always black in colour. On the other hand it is worth a note that the cappa clausa, or close cope, was simply a cope or cape sewn up in front for common outdoor use. "The wearing of this", says Mr. Bishop,[3] "instead of the cappa scissa, the same cope not sewn up, is again and again enjoined on the clergy by synods and statutes during the late Middle Ages."

Use of the Cope in the Roman Catholic Church

A modern cope, worn with a mitre by the Most Rev. Rogier Joseph Vangheluwe, Bishop of Bruges.

Under all these different forms the cope has not substantially changed its character or shape. The cope is a vestment for processions worn by all ranks of the clergy when assisting at a liturgical function, but it is never worn by the priest and his sacred ministers in celebrating the Mass. At a Pontifical High Mass the cope was worn by the "assistant priest," a priest who assists the bishop who is the actual celebrant. In the Sarum Rite, the Cope was also prescribed for members of the choir at various times.

It is now the vestment assigned to the celebrant, whether priest or bishop, for almost all functions except the Mass when the chasuble is worn by the celebrant instead. The cope is used, for example, in processions, in the greater blessings and consecrations, at the solemnly celebrated Liturgy of the Hours, in giving Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the celebration of other sacraments outside of Mass. For most of these the celebrant may instead wear simply cassock and surplice or alb, both with the stole, for simpler celebrations. The chasuble, which is properly only worn for Mass, may also be worn during processions and other ceremonies that occur directly before or after Mass, such as the absolutions and burial of the dead, at the Asperges before Mass, and at the blessing and imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday, to avoid the need for the celebrant to change vestments.

The Cæremoniale Episcoporum envisages its use by a bishop if presiding at but not celebrating Mass, for the Liturgy of the Hours, for processions, at the special ceremonies on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Lenten gatherings modelled on the "stations" in Rome, Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi. The bishop may use a cope when celebrating outside of Mass the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, matrimony, penance in solemn form, ordination (if not concelebrating), and anointing of the sick. The list in the index of the Cæremoniale Episcoporum continues with several more cases.

As regards liturgical colours, the cope usually follows the color assigned to that day in the liturgical calendar, although white may always be worn for celebrations of a joyful character or before the Blessed Sacrament, and violet may always be worn for celebrations of a penitential character. It may be made of any rich or becoming material, including cloth of gold (which may be used in place of any colour except violet or black). Owing to its ample dimensions and unvarying shape, ancient copes are preserved to us in proportionately greater numbers than other vestments and provide the finest specimens of medieval embroidery we possess. Among these the "Syon Cope" in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the "Ascoli Cope" in the Pinacoteca Civica, Ascoli Piceno, are remarkable as representing the highest excellence of that specially English thirteenth-century embroidery known as the opus anglicanum ('English work'). We are also indebted to the use of copes for some magnificent specimens of the jeweller's craft. The brooch or clasp, meant to fasten the cope in front, and variously called morse, pectoral, bottone, etc., was an object often in the highest degree precious and costly. The work which was the foundation of all the fortunes of Benvenuto Cellini was the magnificent morse which he made for Pope Clement VII. Some admirable examples of these morses still survive.

Pope Paul VI wearing the mantum.

Papal mantum

The mantum or papal mantle differs little from an ordinary cope except that it is somewhat longer, and is fastened in the front by an elaborate morse. In earlier centuries it was red in colour; red, at the time being the papal colour rather than white. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the immantatio, or bestowal of the mantum on the newly elected pope, was regarded as specially symbolical of investiture with papal authority: Investio te de papatu romano ut praesis urbi et orbi, "I invest you with the Roman papacy, that you may rule over the city and the world" were the words used in conferring it at the Papal Coronation. Because of Vatican II, the use of the mantum was uncommon toward the end of the 20th Century, but has since resurrected and has publicly become an extraordinary part of the papal regalia once again.

Cappa magna

The cappa magna (literally, "great cape"), a form of mantle, is a voluminous ecclesiastical vestment with a long train, proper to cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates.

The cappa magna is not strictly a liturgical vestment, but only a glorified cappa choralis, or choir cope. That is to say, it is not used when vested as a celebrant at a liturgical service. It is worn in processions or "in choir" (i.e., attending but not celebrating services). Its colour for cardinals is ordinarily red and for bishops violet. Cardinals and papal nuncios are entitled to wear a cappa magna of watered silk.

Jusztinián Cardinal Serédi wearing the winter cappa magna (note the ermine lining around the shoulders), 1930s.

The cappa magna is ample in volume and provided with a long train and a disproportionately large hood, the lining of the hood used to be of ermine in winter and silk in summer, and was made in such a way as to completely cover not only the back, but also the breast and shoulders. The hood is functional and in earler times was often placed on the head and covered with the galero. This used to be the custom when the pope created a new cardinal at a consistory. Nowadays, the hood is normally worn over the head only during penitential rites. Previously, cardinals who were members of specific religious orders would wear a cappa magna in the color of their order. Nowadays, all cardinals wear red.

It is now rarely used, since the 1969 Instruction on the Dress, Titles and Coats-of-arms of Cardinals, Bishops and Lesser Prelates lays down that:

The cappa magna, always without ermine, is no longer obligatory; it can be used only outside of Rome, in circumstances of very special solemnity. (§ 12)

However, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem still uses the ermine-lined winter cappa, because he is bound by the complex and unalterable rules of the status quo, an 1852 Ottoman firman which regulates the delicate relations between the various religious groups which care for the religious sites in the Holy Land. This anomaly is most evident at the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. The cappa magna is also still used among groups using the Tridentine Mass.

Use of the cope in the Church of England and Anglican Communion

An Anglican priest wearing a cope over cassock, surplice and stole.

The earliest post-Reformation prayer books of the Church of England contemplated the continued use of the cope, whereas the alb and chasuble were eschewed. In the contemporary Church of England and the Anglican Communion as a whole, the cope is worn by Anglo-Catholics and High Church Anglicans as a non-Eucharistic vestment, in the same manner as that of the Roman Catholic Church. It is also an Anglican tradition for the higher clergy - deans, archdeacons and canons to wear copes on diocesan occasions.

In the Broad Church (rarely in the Low Church), the cope is sometimes worn in lieu of the chasuble at the Eucharist (over either a surplice or an alb) especially by bishops and other prelates. In the Church of England itself, the cope is worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the coronation of the Sovereign. Prior to her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II presented a set of ornate copes to the Canons of Westminster Abbey as a gift.

Lutheran Churches

The cope is usually worn only for processions and services of the Divine Office (morning and evening prayers) in most Lutheran denominations. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is similar to the Churches of the Anglican Communion and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, the cope is usually worn by the bishop when not serving as the presiding minister at Holy Communion. It is rarely worn by clerics in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod or other German Lutheran denominations.

Use of the cope in universities

One of the copes of the University of Cambridge.

As part of academic dress, the University of Cambridge uses a cope known as a cappa clausa which is made of scarlet superfine cloth with the cowl lined and the cape opening edged with white fur and is closed with clasps. This was once the Congregation dress of DDs but has now come to be the Vice-Chancellor's (or their deputies') official congregation dress when conferring degrees. Praelectors presenting candidates for higher doctoral degrees also wear the cope.

The only other place that still use the cope is the University of the South in America where it is also the official dress of the vice-chancellor. The only difference with the Cambridge cope is that the cape hem is also edged in fur.

Examples of historically and artistically significant copes

A cope from the Vestments of the Order of the Golden Fleece in the Secular Treasury of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna [1]&[2].

The Jubilee Cope commissioned for the Bishop of London by St. Paul’s Cathedral in honor of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II [3]&[4].

The Syon Cope [5]&[6].

A medieval English cope in the Vatican collections [7].

Cardinal Morton's cope at the Art Institute of Chicago [8].

Butler-Bowden Cope at the Victoria and Albert Museum [9].

The cope from the set of vestments commissioned from Guasparri Di Bartolomeo Papini (1535-1607) for Pope Clement VIII [10].

See also

Sources and references

  1. ^ See Mon. Germ. Hist.: "Epist. Carol.", II, 512.
  2. ^ Bishop, Edmund, Dublin Review, January 1897.
  3. ^ Bishop, loc. cit., p. 24.

External links

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COPE (M.E. cape, cope, from Med. Lat. capa, cappa), a liturgical vestment of the Western Church. The word "cope," now confined to this sense, was in its origin identical with "cape" and "cap," and was used until comparatively modern times also for an out-door cloak, whether worn by clergy or laity. This, indeed, was its original meaning, the cappa having been an outer garment common to men and women whether clerical or lay (see Du Cange, Glossarium, s.v.). The word pluviale (rain-cloak), which the cope bears in the Roman Church, is exactly parallel so far as change of meaning is concerned. In both words the etymology reveals the origin of the vestment, which is no more than a glorified survival of an article of clothing worn by all and sundry in ordinary life, the type of which survives, e.g. in the ample hooded cloak of Italian military officers. This origin is clearly traceable in the shape and details of the cope. When spread out this forms an almost complete semicircle. Along the straight edge there is usually a broad band, and at the neck is attached the "hood" (in Latin, the clypeus or shield), i.e. a shield-shaped piece of stuff which hangs down over the back. The vestment is secured in front by a broad tab sewn on to one side and fastening to the other with hooks, sometimes also by a brooch (called the morse, Lat. morsus). Sometimes the morse is attached as a mere ornament to the cross-piece. The cope thus preserves the essential shape of its. secular original, and even the hood, though now a mere ornamental appendage, is a survival of an actual hood. The evolution of this latter into its present form was gradual; first the hood became too small for use, then it was transformed into a small triangular piece of stuff (13th century), which in its turn grew (14th and 15th centuries) into the shape of a shield (see Plate II., fig. 4), and this again, losing its pointed tip in the 17th century, expanded in the 18th into a flap which was sometimes enlarged so as to cover the whole back down to the waist. In its general effect, however, a cope now no longer suggests a "waterproof." It is sometimes elaborately embroidered all over; more usually it is of some rich material, with the borders in front and the hood embroidered, while the morse has given occasion for some of the most beautiful examples of the goldsmith's and jeweller's craft (see Plate II., figs. 5, 6).

The use of the cope as a liturgical vestment can be traced to the end of the 8th century: a pluviale is mentioned in the foundation charter of the monastery of Obona in Spain. Before this the so-called cappa choralis, a black, bell-shaped, hooded vestment with no liturgical significance, had been worn by the secular and regular clergy at choir services, processions, &c. This was in its origin identical with the chasuble, and if, as Father Braun seems to prove, the cope developed out of this, cope and chasuble have a common source.' Father Braun cites numerous inventories and the like to show that the cope (pluviale) was originally no more than a more elaborate cappa worn on high festivals or other ceremonial occasions, sometimes by the whole religious community, sometimes - if the stock were limited - by those, e.g. the cantors, &c., who were most conspicuous in the ceremony. In the 10th century, partly under the influence of the wealthy and splendour-loving community of Cluny, the use of the cope became very widespread; in the 11 th century it was universally worn, though the rules for its ritual use had not yet been fixed. It was at this time, however, par excellence the vestment proper to the cantors, choirmaster and singers, whose duty it was to sing the invitatorium, responses, &c., at office, and the introitus, graduate, &c., at Mass. This use survived in the ritual of the pre-Reformation Church in England, and has been introduced in certain Anglican churches, e.g. St Mary Magdalen's, Munster Square, in London.

1 This derivation, suggested also by Dr Legg (Archaeol. Journal, 51, p. 39, 1894), is rejected by the five bishops in their report to Convocation (1908). Their statement, however, that it is "pretty clear" that the cope is derived from the Roman lacerna or birrus is very much open to criticism. We do not even know what the appearance and form of the birrus were; and the question of the origin of the cope is not whether it was derived from any garment of the time of the Roman Empire, and if so from which, but what garment in use in the 8th and 9th centuries it represents.

By the beginning of the 13th century the liturgical use of the cope had become finally fixed, and the rules for this use included by Pope Pius V. in the Roman Missal and by Clement VIII. in the Pontificate and Caeremoniale were consequently not new, but in accordance with ancient and universal custom. The substitution of the cope for the chasuble in many of the functions for which the latter had been formerly used was primarily due to the comparative convenience of a vestment opened at the front, and so leaving the arms free. A natural conservatism preserved the chasuble, which by the 9th century had acquired a symbolical significance, as the vestment proper to the celebration of Mass; but the cope took its place in lesser functions, i.e. the censing of the altar during the Magnificat and at Mattins (whence the German name Rauchmantel, smoke-mantel), processions, solemn consecrations, and as the dress of bishops attending synods.

It is clear from this that the cope, though a liturgical, was never a sacerdotal vestment. If it was worn by priests, it could also be worn by laymen, and it was never worn by priests in their sacerdotal, i.e. their sacrificial, capacity. For this reason it was not rejected with the "Mass vestments" by the English Church at the Reformation, in spite of the fact that it was in no ecclesiastical sense "primitive." By the First Prayer-book of Edward VI., which represented a compromise, it was directed to be worn as an alternative to the "vestment" (i.e. chasuble) at the celebration of the Communion; this at least seems the plain meaning of the words "vestment or cope," though they have been otherwise interpreted. In the Second Prayer -book vestment and cope alike disappear; but a cope was worn by the prelate who consecrated Archbishop Parker, and by the "gentlemen" as well as the priests of Queen Elizabeth's chapel; and, finally, by the 24th canon (of 1603) a "decent cope" was prescribed for the "principal minister" at the celebration of Holy Communion in cathedral churches as well as for the "gospeller and epistler." Except at royal coronations, however, the use of the cope, even in cathedrals, had practically ceased in England before the ritual revival of the 19th century restored its popularity. The disuse implied no doctrinal change; the main motive was that the stiff vestment, high in the neck, was incompatible with a full-bottomed wig. Scarlet copes with white fur hoods have been in continuous use on ceremonial occasions in the universities, and are worn by bishops at the opening of parliament.

With the liturgical cope may be classed the red mantle (mantum), which from the 11th century to the close of the middle ages formed, with the tiara, the special symbol of the papal dignity. The immantatio was the solemn investiture of the newo e immediately after his election b Papat means of the cappa rubea, with the papal powers.

This ceremony was of great importance. In the contested election of 1159, for instance, though a majority of the cardinals had elected Cardinal Roland (Alexander III.), the defeated candidate Cardinal Octavian (Victor IV.), while his rival was modestly hesitating to accept the honour, seized the pluviale and put it on his own shoulders hastily, upside down; and it was on this ground that the council of Pavia in r 160 based their declaration in favour of Victor, and anathematized Alexander. The immantatio fell out of use during the papal exile at Avignon and was never restored.

It will be convenient here to note other vestments that have developed out of the cappa. The cappa choralis has already FIG. I. - Seventeenth Century Coronation Cope at Westminster Abbey.

been mentioned; it survived as a choir vestment that in winter took the place of the surplice, rochet or almuce. In the 12th century it was provided with arms (cappa manicata), but the use of this form was forbidden at choir services and other liturgical functions. From the hood of the cappa was developed the almuce. At what date the cappa choralis developed into the cappa magna, a non-liturgical vestment peculiar to the pope, cardinals, bishops and certain privileged prelates, is not known; but mention of it is found as early as the 15th century. This vestment is a loose robe, with a large hood (lined with fur in winter and red silk in summer) and a long train, which is carried by a cleric called the caudatarius. Its colour varies with the hierarchical rank of the wearer: - red for cardinals, purple for bishops, &c.; or, if the dignitary belong to a religious order, it follows the colour of the habit of the order. The right to wear a violet cappa magna is conceded by the popes to the chapters of certain important cathedrals, but the train in this case is worn folded over the left arm or tied under it. It may only be worn by them, moreover, in their own church, or when the chapter appears elsewhere in its corporate capacity.

Lastly, from the cappa is probably derived the mozzetta, a short cape with a miniature hood, fastened down the front with buttons. The name is derived from the Italian mozzare, to cut off, and points to its being an abbrevi ated cappa, as the episcopal "apron" is a shortened cassock. It is worn over the rochet by the pope, cardinals, bishops and prelates, the colours varying as in the case of the cappa magna. Its use as confined to bishops can be traced to the 16th century.

See Joseph Braun, S. J., Die liturgische Gewandung (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1907); also the bibliography to the article Vestments.

(W. A. P.)

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