Sunday, March 08, 2009

Use, History and Development of the "Planeta Plicata" or Folded Chasuble

With it being Lent, there seemed to be a natural opportunity to speak to a matter which is of some historical and liturgical interest, particularly for those interested in various details of Western liturgical history. What I am speaking of is the planeta plicata and stola latior, or, the folded chasuble and broad stole.

Now we have spoken of and shown these from time to time to some degree, but we have never condensed the matter into a single article to date, and further, when those mentions have arisen, often the same questions arise about their use. Accordingly it seemed would be of some value to make a more condensed article about the matter, particularly as we enter the time which is most associated with their former use.

I speak of "former use" for the reason that the folded chasuble and broad stole were abandoned in the Roman rite under John XXIII in the early 1960's, prior to the Second Vatican Council. (cf. Novus Rubricarum Codex, 137.) Whether this was or is desireable -- particularly given their long-standing use -- is a matter of some debate and growing consideration today, particularly as liturgical scholars and churchmen begin to re-appraise and ask questions of some of the principles which informed some of the liturgical reforms of the 20th century.

However, that particular debate is not the purpose of this article, which is rather more interested in them on the level of history and historical usages and manifestations, as well as a practical consideration of their use within the context of other Western rites and uses.

History of Planetae Plicatae, or Folded Chasubles

I. The Earlier Use of the Chasuble, Civil and Ecclesiastical

In considering the history of the planeta plicata, it seems best to begin with what is surmised about its early use, and the use of the chasuble more generally.

In our day, we are particularly accustomed to think of the chasuble as a uniquely priestly garment, and for the most part, it has developed into that, but the use of the folded chasuble certainly speaks to it not being, historically, uniquely priestly. In fact, there is thought that the chasuble is actually derived from what was originally a common form of Roman civil dress:
Nearly all ecclesiologists are now agreed that liturgical costume was simply an adaptation of the secular attire commonly worn throughout the Roman Empire in the early Christian centuries... the chasuble in particular seems to have been identical with the ordinary outer garment of the lower orders. It consisted of a square or circular piece of cloth in the centre of which a hole was made; through this the head was passed. With the arms hanging down, this rude garment covered the whole figure.

-- The Catholic Encyclopedia, "Chasuble"

The following image of Pope St. Gregory the Great standing between his father, Gordianus, and his mother Silvia, shows this dress. You will note that they are all wearing the "paenula", "casula" or chasuble in its civil form.

By a certain point (one suggestion places it at the 6th century) the chasuble became an exclusively ecclesiastical garment, but not an exclusively priestly garment. The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry for the chasuble, notes that "[the] chasuble, though now regarded as the priestly vestment par excellence, was in the early centuries worn by all ranks of the clergy."

Further, Archdale King in The Liturgy of the Roman Church suggests that "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. 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." (p. 129)

Fr. Joseph Braun, S.J., the well respected German liturgical historian and scholar, adds an additional layer of consideration about the use of the planeta within Rome and without it:
If we ask who wore the planeta, we will have to differentiate between Roman and extra-Roman usage. According to the latter [usage] only priests and bishops seem to have used it in the liturgy, whereas in Rome during the same, all clerics used it, into the 9th century. This emerges from the Roman Ordines as well as from the indication of Amalarius of Metz. The Roman Deacons were, however, only vested with the planeta until they entered the presbyterium, except for certain times, days and occasions which had a penitential character; for on these they ministered without dalmatic in a dark planeta. With the Subdeacons in Rome, as we have heard earlier, the planeta fell out of use in the 9th century by being replaced by an outer tunic modeled on the dalmatic, except for penitential times, in which they, too, continued to make use of the chasuble. With the Roman acolytes the vestment remained a bit longer, but probably not beyond the 10th century...

-- Die liturgischen Paramente in Gegenwart und Vergangenheit, p.105 (Trans. by Gregor Kollmorgen)

Braun mentions the 8th-9th century liturgical writer Amalarius of Metz on the use of the chasuble by other clerics, and at least one of those references can be found here in a translation from Amalarius' Liber Officialis: "Ministers remove their chasubles when they undertake the job of lector or cantor... The lector or cantor at his individual duty wears an alb with no chasuble..." (Trans. by Christopher A. Jones, found in the Introduction of A Lost Work of Amalarius of Metz, p. 2-3) Amalarius is known to have also spoken of the use of the folded chasuble.

The 13th century writer, William Durandus, author of the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum also spoke to the use of the folded chasuble in the third book of the aforesaid work:
...the Roman Church uses violet from the first Sunday of Advent until the Mass on the Vigil of the Nativity inclusively, and from Septuagesima until the Mass on Easter Eve exclusively of the latter, whenever the Office is of the season; except upon Maundy Thursday and Good Friday... And be it understood that upon Holy Saturday violet is to be worn at every office which has a place before Mass; with this exception, that the Deacon who blesses the Paschal Candle, and the Subdeacon who serves him, are vested respectively in a Dalmatic and Tunicle of white... But after the Blessing done, the Deacon lays aside his Dalmatic, and putting on a violet folded-chasuble keeps the same even until the beginning of Mass.

-- Chapter. XVIII, "Of the Four Colours which the Church Uses in Her Vestments"

As to the extent which the chasuble was used, it is a matter of some question. Braun suggests that:
Outside of Rome the custom of the ministri functioning in chasubles instead of dalmatics on penitential days gained acceptance only slowly. In the Carolingian era it was established there only "in some places" as we hear from Amalarius. The usage had only become general in the 12th century, and even then it was probably only the more prominent churches, the cathedrals, the large collegiate churches and the eminent monastic churches, in which on penitential days deacons and subdeacons made use of the chasuble.

-- Die liturgischen Paramente, p.105

II. How the Folded Chasuble was Manifest at Different Times

It seems best to begin with the more recent manifestations of the folded chasuble and work backwards to its earlier historical form.

When we think of the folded chasubles today, we tend to mainly think of them in their baroque form, with the front of the chasuble either folded upward or cut short:

(The first two show variants on the so-called "cut" form, which simply eliminates what would have been folded up by shortening it, whereas the third is actually folded up)

Other examples can be found in a 1752 edition of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum which show them in the context of the feast of Candlemas:

(Image courtesy of Ceremoniaire: Les Rites Liturgiques)

The Gothic revival which began in the 19th century and spanned the 20th took up this form of folding as well:

Indeed the rubrics specify "planetis plicatis ante pectus", the "chasuble folded before the breast", thus formalizing that manner of folding the chasuble today.

Working our way historically backward from the present time, this form of folding is a development which was tied to the shifting form of the chasuble which gradually became less and less ample over the centuries, thereby changing the way in which this was accomplished -- and the vestments of the gothic revival, such as that seen above, while restoring a more ample form that would allow for the more ancient method, naturally adopted the present rubric of folding the chasuble.

In earlier centuries, however, the form of folding was manifest not by folding the chasuble up in the front, but rather at the sides and up to the shoulders.

Braun notes:
How the acolytes put on the chasuble, whether in a similar manner to the priests or in a different manner, we do not know; we only hear that they had to put off the vestment when they had to sing at the ambo. The deacons pulled the chasuble, when they ministered in it on penitential days, at the end of the oratio up to the shoulders and let it like this until the alleluja after the gradual. Then they removed the vestment, wound it - together with the stole, which until then hung straight down with both its ends - like a sash across back and chest to the right side and served like this until the Pope returned after Communion from the altar to the throne. Of the Subdeacons, the Primicerius of the Cantores gathered up the chasuble already at the antiphon of the introit, the others like the Deacon after the oratio. However, they ordered the chasuble somewhat different than the Deacons, that is to say in such a manner, that it formed a puff in the front, probably in order to make use of it for touching the sacred vessels and books...

It is questionable whether it also became the custom everywhere that they then gathered up the chasuble in the front as was done in Rome. It seems that in some places the subdeacon limited himself to removing it for the epistle, the deacon, however, to wearing it like a sash from the Gospel until after Communion."

-- Die liturgischen Paramente, p.105

Archdale King notes in The Liturgy of the Roman Church that:
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'.

The Folded Chasuble of the Deacon: Two Forms of Wear

It is important at this point to note that there are two manifestations of the folded chasuble as it pertains to the deacon; this will be important to understand a later development: the first is where it is worn up at the sides to the shoulders and let fall; and second is when it is folded yet again and then worn in a sash like form. When they were worn in each of these ways depended upon the point of time within the liturgy.

The former method has, unfortunately, turned up no depiction so far, but thankfully there is one mediaeval example which shows this sash-like, or "re-folded" manner of wearing the folded chasuble. It comes from the North-west tower of the exterior of Wells Cathedral in England:

(Left: The statue as it appears. Right: The folded chasuble in its sash-like form highlighted)

A Word about Broad Stoles

At this point, a further word about this "bandolier" or "sash" wearing of the folded chasuble seems relevant, particularly as we prepare to consider the folded chasuble in modern usage.

In its modern expression, the folded chasuble turned into two separate vestments: the folded chasuble itself and the broad stole.

The broad stole really intends to approximate, not a stole, nor its own vestment separate from the folded chasuble, but rather the folded chasuble when it had been folded once more as we have just shown above. This is the origin of what we have come know as the "broad stole" or stola latior. (See right. The maniple has also been highlighted to complete the visual comparison.)

The reason for this development was likewise tied to the development of the chasuble itself. Just as the form of the folding of the chasuble changed from the sides to before the breast because of the newer forms, so too did the folding of it yet again into stola form likewise become an issue. Accordingly, the separate stola latior developed in order to compensate for this, thereby continuing the tradition of this sash-like vestment at particular times of the liturgy.

In point of fact, the broad "stole" is really not a stole at all then, but is worn over the stole proper of the deacon -- similar to how it was wound up with it before. An interesting point can be raised on this front.

As was mentioned in an earlier quote from Braun, originally the actual stole of the deacon was not worn in this angled, sash-like fashion; when it was, was apparently only within the context of the planeta plicata:
That the deacons put on the stole in the form of a sash only developed later. In the beginning of the 12th century it was already custom, not, however, already in the 9th century. At that time rather the deacon only on penitential days, on which he would wear the the planeta in the manner of a sash from the Gospel onwards, wound the stole around in the form of a sash, together with the planeta. From this exception then gradually developed the later rule.

-- Die liturgischen Paramente, p.138

In other words, Braun is suggesting that the form of wearing the diaconal stole that we are so familiar with today -- on an angle, worn from the left shoulder to the right hip -- is actually a result (and now the only remnant) of the tradition of the folded chasuble when the stole was wound up with the folded chasuble in that manner.

* * *

How They Were Used in Recent Liturgical Usage

Having now looked briefly at some of the history of the vestment in question, it seems that we should also consider how and when these vestments were manifest and used within recent liturgical usage, as some may be only familiar with them on a cursory level.

I. When the Planetae Plicatae were Used in Recent Liturgical Usage

First of all, they were used during the penitential times. The 8th edition of The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (Fortescue and O'Connell) published in 1953 has this to say:
They are worn... by the deacon and subdeacon, instead of dalmatic and tunicle, on days of fasting and penance, except vigils of Saints' days and Christmas Eve, which have dalmatic and tunicle. Folded chasubles therefore are used on Sundays and weekdays of Advent and Lent, when the Mass is of the season. Except from this the third Sunday of Advent and the week-days (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) on which its Mass may be repeated. Except also the fourth Sunday of Lent, Maundy Thursday and (for the deacon) Holy Saturday at the blessing of the Paschal candle and Mass. Folded chasubles are used further on Ember days (except those in the Whitsun octave), on Whitsun Eve before Mass (not at the red Mass), on Candlemas at the blessing of candles and procession. (p.245)

The mention of the 3rd Sunday of Advent and 4th Sunday of Lent of course point to the "Rose" Sundays (Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday) when the penitential rigour of the season is lightened. Typically Rose vestments were to be worn on this Sunday. (More on this momentarily however.)

At the time that this was written in 1953, folded chasuble and broad stole would also have been used upon Good Friday, but in the colour black of course. However, this usage was abandoned in the Roman rite even prior to violet after the Holy Week revisions of Pius XII.

Previous to these revisions however, folded chasubles and broad stoles were to be found in two liturgical colours: violet and black. Here are two examples which I had a friend "model" at my request, to better show how they looked while worn:

Now, the question is often asked therefore, "why then do we see older dalmatics and tunicles in violet?"

This question seems to be (understandably) rooted in the present usage of the modern Roman liturgy, which sees purple only used during Lent and Advent (or as an option for funeral Masses). But in the calendar of the usus antiquior, violet dalmatic and tunicle would have also been used for times such as the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. In other words, there was a broader use of violet outside of the seasons of Lent and Advent.

Further, according to Fortescue, if there were no Rose coloured vestments to use on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays, violet vestments were used on those Sundays instead, including the violet dalmatic and tunicle (p.245) -- which would be in keeping with the lightened penitential character of those Sundays.

II. Who Used Them in Recent Liturgical Usage

As was mentioned in the quote above, folded chasubles were worn by the deacon and subdeacon in place of the dalmatic and tunicles at the appropriate times.

Additionally, as has already been mentioned, the deacon would wear the broad stole, which was worn over top of his normal diaconal stole when the planeta plicata was taken off. (see p. 245-6, 8th edition of Fortescue)

Planetae Plicatae where also used by not only the deacon and subdeacon, but as well as by the assistant deacons at Solemn Pontifical Masses in the penitential seasons. (See A. Stehle, Manual of Episcopal Ceremonies, "Ash Wednesday"). You can see two such assistant deacons accordingly vested here:

(Palm Sunday 1919 at Westminster Cathedral, London. Cardinal Bourne leads the Palm Sunday procession)

III. Where Planetae Plicatae Were Used in Recent Liturgical Usage

Braun suggests they were required to be used "in cathedrals and other preeminent churches, not in smaller ones." (Die liturgischen Paramente, p. 103)

How "preeminent" might be understood is up for some interpretation of course. For his part, Fortescue, in addressing this specific matter, identifies "greater churches" as follows: "'Greater churches' are cathedrals, collegiate churches, parish churches and the chief churches of Regulars. They include therefore nearly all churches in England." (See Chapter II, "The Vestments of the Roman Rite". p. 11 in 1953 edition of the Ceremonies.)

Of course, this was not to be understood in a restrictive sense; that they were not allowed in smaller churches. Rather, it only speaks to where they were required.

Of course, this leads to the question of what was done in those locales where they were not technically required, but a solemn Mass was had. Both Braun and Fortescue speak of the deacon and subdeacon simply wearing their proper vestments, minus the dalmatic and tunicle respectively in these instances.

IV. How they were used within the Roman Liturgy Recently

From the book, Liturgical Law by Fr. Charles Augustine, OSB:

Deacon and subdeacon sometimes wear a folded chasuble (planeta plicata)... the deacon, before chanting the Gospel, folded it like a mantle under the right arm in order to perform his functions more conveniently. Now the deacon divests himself before the Gospel of the planeta plicata and takes it back after the last ablution. But all that time he wears a broad stole over the other one. The subdeacon puts off the planeta plicata during the time he reads the epistle, and resumes it after having kissed the celebrant's hand.

-- p. 54

V. When their use Ceased within the Roman liturgy

As was mentioned earlier, black folded chasubles and broad stole were no longer used in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday after the revisions to Holy Week in 1955 under Pius XII.

Violet folded chasubles and broad stole were no longer used in the Roman liturgy after the rubrical revisions of John XXIII in 1960.

VI. Usage in Other Western Liturgical Rites and Uses

We would be remiss to not give a brief consideration to the question of the use of the planeta plicata within the context of other Western liturgical rites and uses. This too, is a question which often arises.

It should be stated first, however, that our considerations are limited to the more recent usages of these liturgical books, and are not necessarily considering what may have been centuries ago.

The Ambrosian rite did use planetae plicatae during Advent, Lent and the Lower Litanies. On Good Friday however, the deacon wore red dalmatic. (See Archdale King, The Liturgies of the Primatial Sees. More generally, also see Missale Ambrosianum, 1904: Rubricae Generales, 44)

The Premonstratensian rite also used planetae plicatae on Good Friday as well as during the penitential seasons. But in addition, the Premonstratensians also used folded chasubles for the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. This would appear to be quite unique to them in modern usage at least. (See Archdale King, The Liturgies of the Religious Orders, p. 185, and the Premonstratensian Ordinarius, para. 223.) As for when their use was stopped, this is an open question at the moment, but they might have continued to use them until the Order adopted the modern Roman liturgy. (See also, Missale Praemonstratense, 1936: De Defectibus in Celebratione Missarum Occurentibus, De Paramentis, 5.)

The rite of Lyon also makes mention of the use of the folded chasuble but with a twist. Folded chasubles were not used on the 1st Sunday of Lent, as "according to tradition, Lent begins on the first Monday" (see King, Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, p. 50) and so accordingly on that Sunday (as well as Laetare Sunday) dalmatic and tunicle were worn by the deacon and subdeacon. Additionally, folded chasubles were not used upon Good Friday. (See Missale Romano-Lugdunense, 1904: Rubricae Generales Missalis, XIX.4)

The Bragan rite also mentions the use of the folded chasuble in penitential seasons, including upon Good Friday. (See Missale Bracarense, 1924: Rubricae Generales, Tit. 8.6)

Within the Dominican rite, planetae plicatae were not used -- within modern times at least. However, the Dominican rite did exclude the use of the dalmatic for penitential times (as well as ferial days generally), thereby having deacon and subdeacon simply wearing the vestments proper to them, minus the outer dalmatic. (See Missale Sacri Ordinis Praedicatorum, 1933: De Coloribus, De Qualitate Indumentorum, 4)

The situation in the Cisterican rite is similar to that of the Dominican. Folded chasubles were not used, but in penitential times, deacon and subdeacon merely wear their proper vestments, minus the outer vestments of dalmatic and tunicle. (See Missale Cisterciense, 1910: Rubricae Generales Missalis, XX.6)

Likewise, with the Carmelite rite. (See Missale Carmelitanum, 1935: De Coloribus et Qualitate Paramentorum, 10)

Within the Carthusian rite, dalmatics and tunicles are not used generally. Rather, the deacon wears the cuculla ecclesiastica and, for the Gospel only, a stole. The subdeacon is likewise plainly vested. Accordingly, it seems likely to surmise that they would not have adopted folded chasubles.

Finally, with regard to the Mozarabic liturgy, to date, I have come across no reference either way.


Thanks to Gregor Kollmorgen for the translation of the Braun excerpts from German to English and for also highlighting the matter of the diagonal wearing of the diaconal stole and how that may be related to the planeta plicata.

Thanks also to Fr. Augustine Thompson for confirming a few details about the Dominican rite, and Nicola de Grandi, the Ambrosian rite.

A few others helped confirmed some details for me, and I wish to extend them my thanks as well. They know who they are.

Thanks as well to my priestly friend who modelled some of the vestments in question.

Finally, if anyone has any information which they think might be a good supplement, or another consideration or interpretation, do feel free to send it in. There is much detail, history and question here, so it is easy to miss some points.


1. The following further images of the more ample form of chasuble rolled up, as well as further folded into stola form were found in issue no. 4, 1948, of L'Art d'Eglise (which at the time seems to have been named L'Artisan et les Arts Liturgiques).

2. Also, in addition to the image of Palm Sunday at Westminster Cathedral, this photo of the Easter Vigil also shows the use of folded chasubles.

3. Finally, some rare images of the use of the folded chasuble from within the context of the papal liturgy of Good Friday have been found:


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