Materials and colours

According to the rank, one wore garments and other accessories made of various materials. The Holy Father used to wear garments made of velvet which, similarly to satin, with small exceptions, was reserved for the Pope exclusively. Apart from that, he wore moire, as well as smooth silk, serge in penitential periods and cloth during the winter.

Pope Pius XII in winter choir dress.

Apart from the Pope, only cardinals could wear moire. The choir cassocks (together with the belt, the zucchetto and the biretta), the cappa magna, the ferraiolo, the mozzetta and the mantelletta are made of that fabric. During the winter, moire is replaced by cloth in the cassock, the mantelletta and the mozzetta. On Good Friday the cardinals wear a woollen cappa.

Kardynałowie Quiroga i Meyer w kardynalskich strojach chórowych używanych w Rzymie.
In the photo cardinals Quiroga and Meyer in the choir cassocks, mozzette and mantellettas.

A characteristic feature of the members of the papal court was smooth silk: the prelates di mantelletta and the prelates di mantellone wore silken robes in Rome and outside of the City as well; in winter they were replaced by garments made of cloth. There was a slight difference in the case of the archbishops and bishops who were the Assistants at the Pontifical Throne: they could use silk only when staying in Rome and it applied to secular clergy exclusively – the Assistants who were monks could not wear silk.

Obok Jana XXIII jego sekretarz mons. Capovilla w mantellone.
In the photo: next to Pope John XXIII stands his personal secretary mons. Capovilla in a mantellone.

The garments (partly with the exception of the ferraiolo) for the rest of clergy (religious cardinals, archbishops, bishops and regular secular and monastic clergy) were made of cloth or other woollen fabrics, chosen according to the season of the year. If the Holy Father was a monk, he also wore woollen vestments, however, similarly to bishops, with silken accessories-  lining and lace, and with a clerical collar, calotte, biretta, belt, gloves and stockings which were also made of silk.

Bishop Wojtyła during Second Vatican Council.

Both, materials and colours of the robes were dependent on the rank in the ecclesiastical hierarchy or appropriate privileges. The Pope wears white, which is reserved for him (the exception is the clergy in tropical countries), although he uses red accessories such as: the hat (saturno), the mozzetta, the camauro (those 3 things can also be white), the cape (tabarro), the shoes and the cappa magna. In addition, the trimmings and adornments of his garments are golden (for example on tabarro or shoes) as well as pompons or tassels on the belt. We should remember that in winter the camerino and the mozzetta was trimmed with white ermine.

Jan XXIII w zimowym stroju chórowym.
Pope John XXIII in winter choir dress with a camauro.

The cardinal’s colour is red or scarlet (it is defined variously in the church documents). A cardinal in the choir dress wore everything in that colour, except for golden tassels and buckles: from the biretta to the shoes. The shoes had, of course, red heels. The exception of that rule were penitential periods when the cardinals wore garments in the purple colour, apart from trim and a part of the accessories, such as the zucchetto and the biretta. The red colour was used also for trimmings, buttons etc. of the robes of bishops and the prelates di mantelletta: in everyday cassocks the colour was in the amaranth shade, whereas in the choir cassocks in the scarlet one.

Abp Bostonu kard. Cushing w uroczystym stroju chórowym.
In the photo: the archbishop of Boston, cardinal Cushing in the solemn choir dress.

Garments called ‘the purples’ are worn by bishops and various prelates. The robes in this colour were also worn by cardinals in penitential or mourning periods but, first and foremost, by the members of the papal court. Purple trimmings, buttons etc. were also used in black, episcopal cassocks in times of fast or mourning. The bishop’s court had the privilege of using violets, among others: cathedral Masters of Ceremonies (the Masters of Ceremonies from other significant churches as well as those of cardinals during the pontifical Masses were also granted this privilege), bishop’s caudatarii, the bearer of the archbishop’s cross and also the personnel of the cathedral (sacristans, choir etc.). The cassocks worn by all the above had different trim, though.

In the photo: bishop Stangl during the procession to the church.

Since the times of Pope Urban VIII, the black colour became obligatory for the garments of “regular” clergy (apart from the tropics and places where the different colour is the matter of a Pope’s privilege or immemorial custom). Prelates, bishops and cardinals also wear black in everyday cassocks; the difference is that the trimmings and accessories are in the colour proper to their rank.

Ksiądz prałat Escrivá w czasie audiencji u Pawła VI.
Mons. Escrivá during the audience with Pope Paul VI.

[English translation by Dorota]