Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vestments and Vesture: The Folded Chasuble and the Broad Stole

Whenever I travel, I always try to find interesting bits of liturgica, whether that be in the form of architectural details, bits or remnants of liturgical history, or ecclesiastical vesture and vestments.

In my recent travels to Rome, I was quite interested to run into a black "folded chasuble". Some of you may remember this image:

Recently as well, I ran into another such chasuble, and to my great interest, also a broad stole, the first I had seen in person:

In origin, the broad stole was actually the folded chasuble, folded once more.

The folded chasuble and broad stole were originally used during the penitential seasons by the deacon and subdeacon in place of the dalmatic and tunicle. This usage was dropped by John XXIII in the early 1960's.

Finding these vestments presented a natural opportunity to give some consideration to them, their use and their history.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the chasuble:

"The chasuble, though now regarded as the priestly vestment par excellence, was in the early centuries worn by all ranks of the clergy. "Folded chasubles" (planetae plicatae), instead of dalmatics, are still prescribed for the deacon and subdeacon at high Mass during penitential seasons. [NLM note: This was written in the early 20th century, prior to this changing under John XXIII] The precise origin of this pinning up of the chasuble is still obscure, but, like the deacon's wearing of the broad stole (stolone) -- which represents the chasuble rolled up and hung over his shoulder like a soldier's great-coat -- during the active part of his functions in the Mass, it probably had something to do with the inconvenience caused by the medieval chasuble in impeding the free use of the arms."

An even more detailed summary is provided by Archdale King in The Liturgy of the Roman Church:

Chasubles were not only worn by acolytes in Rome, and their use was recorded by Amalarius... It would seem, however, that inferior ministers wore the chasuble in a different fashion, and the reader removed it before going to the ambo for the lesson.

Subdeacons lifted the chasuble up on to the shoulders and let it fall with the point on the breast, as also did the deacons when they kept it on for the Mass. Amalarius says that it was worn 'bandolier-fashion'.


In some churches, chasubles were worn by acolytes until the 11th century, and they are still used by the deacon and subdeacon in Advent and Lent. [NLM: see note above] Their origin is ascribed by De Vert to the stational processions in Rome, when the deacons wore chasubles or 'mantles', in place of the customary dalmatics. These 'folded chasubles', as they are called, are raised in front, but they were originally folded up at the sides, and the present usage was adopted when the chasuble ceased to have sides which it could be folded up. [NLM: This would make reference of course to the stylistic differences between the fuller gothic and conical forms of chasuble and the later baroque forms.] [...] The subdeacon removes the chasuble to read the epistle, and the deacon from before the gospel until after the communion. A so-called 'broad stole' (stola latior) is now worn by the deacon when he has taken off the chasuble, but it was formerly the custom to roll and twist the vestment, which was then placed on the left shoulder and fastened under the right arm, like a solider's great-coat. The adoption of a 'broad stole' was the result of the stiffness of the material of the vestments, but Rouen and other churches in France, adhered to the old custom so lately as the 18th century. (pp. 129-131, The Liturgy of the Roman Church)

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