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Since the earliest times, vestments have been worn by Christian clergy in the performance of both the divine services and other functions of the clergy. Depending on their purpose and function, the vestment consists usually of very fine clothing which clergy wear in the course of their ministry. Some are reminiscent of the royal vesture of the kingdoms of history, and some derive their shape and function from Scripture. Their primary purpose is for the spiritual edification of the Church.

In one sense, vestments function as a uniform, identifying their wearer by his office and function, but they also serve the spiritual function of helping to bring the faithful into the atmosphere of understanding that in the Church, the Christian seeks to move ever more deeply into the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, the wearing of vestments helps to render the clergy as icons of our Lord and his angels, serving at the one altar of God.

Vestments and other distinctive clerical clothing are used in both the Eastern and Western rites of the Orthodox Church.

Eastern Rite


  • Anteri/Podrjaznik: Inner cassock, but does not have buttons down the front like the Roman cassock [1]
  • Exorasson/Ryassa/Jibbee: Outer cassock; a large, flowing garment [2]
  • Pectoral cross: In much of Slavic Orthodoxy, the pectoral cross is the sign of a priest; a plain silvertone (usually pewter) cross is common to most priests, especially of the Russian tradition; the gold and jeweled pectoral crosses are given as awards to clergy; the highest award that can be given to a priest is a second pectoral cross (i.e., the priest may wear two pectoral crosses). In Greek practice, the pectoral cross is awarded only when a priest is elevated to the rank of Oikonomos, and there is no distinction made between various levels of crosses.
  • Skouphos/skufiya/skoufia/skouphia/skoupho: a soft-sided cap, may be peaked (Russian style) [3] or flat (Greek style).
  • Kalymavchion/kamalavka/kalimafi/kameloukion/kamelaukion: a stiff hat, may be cylindrial with flattened conical brim at the top (Greek style, for married priests) [4], flared and flat at the top (Russian style) [5], or cylindrical and flat at the top (Serbian style)

Note: Some of these may be worn during the course of liturgical services


  • Anteri/Zostiko/Podrjaznik: Inner cassock (see above). Worn by monastics at all times.
  • Vest: Worn over the Anteri [6]. This can be worn by married priests, but usually isn't. Worn by monastics at all times.
  • Exorasson/Ryassa/Jibbee: Outer cassock (see above). Worn by monastics during services.
  • Skouphos/skufiya/skoufia/skouphia/skoupho: see above. In Greek monastic practise, may also be hard and flat (Greek style, in services) [7] or soft (Greek style, out of services) [8]. Worn by monastics out of services.
  • Veil (Koukoulion): A black piece of material that comes down the back of a monastic, and has two thin strips coming off the side. [9]
  • Epanokalymavchion or Epanokameloukion: In Greek practise, the veil is placed on top of a kalymavchion, but is not attached to it. Worn by Greek-practise monastics in services.
  • Klobuk: a veil attached to a kalymavchion with a veil that extends over the back, the standard in Slavic practise. Worn by Slav-practise monastics in services.
    • Slavic metropolitans wear a white klobuk [10], with Archbishops having a cross on their klobuk [11]; Greek bishops generally do not have these distinctions.


For the deacon:

  • Sticharion: this is actually a form of the garment worn at baptism, but is ornate (usually a heavy brocade)
  • Orarion: the stole, worn over the left shoulder; deacons may be given the double orarion as an award, which is worn over the left shoulder, wrapped around the chest and back, and brought back over the left shoulder to the front; in Greek practice, all deacons wear the double orarion
  • Epimanikia: cuffs bound with laces; for the deacon, they are worn under the sticharion

For the priest:

  • Pectoral cross (if blessed to wear it)
  • Sticharion: the priest's sticharion is usually white, and of a lighter material than the deacon's
  • Epimanikia: same as the deacon's, except the priest wears his over the sticharion
  • Epitrachelion: the priestly stole, worn around the neck
  • Zone: cloth belt worn over the epitrachelion
  • Phelonion - large conical sleeveless garment worn over all other vestments, with the front largely cut away to facilitate the priest's movements
  • Nabedrennik: from the Slavic traditions; a stiffened square cloth worn on the left side via a long loop of cloth placed over the right shoulder (if the epigonation/palitsa has also been awarded, the nabedrennik is worn on the left side); this is a clergy award, so it is not worn by all priests
  • Epigonation/Palitsa: like the nabedrennik, except it is diamond-shaped and always worn on the right side (loop over the left shoulder); also a clergy award; in Byzantine practice, denotes a priest blessed to hear confessions
  • Miter: not like the Roman miter, it is very much like a crown, and is adorned with icons; this is a clergy award for priests in the Russian tradition; the priestly mitre does not have a cross on its top; Russian practice allows the award of the mitre to nonmonastic clergy

For the bishop:

  • Pectoral cross
  • Sticharion: same as for the priest
  • Epimanikia: same as for the priest
  • Epitrachelion: same as for the priest
  • Zone: same as for the priest
  • Sakkos: instead of the phelonion, the bishop wears the sakkos, which is a tight-fitting garment with wide sleeves
  • Epigonation/palitsa: all bishops wear this
  • Miter: all bishops wear this; the episcopal miter is topped by a cross, unlike the priestly mitre
  • Panagia/Engolpion - medallion usually depiction the Theotokos (Blessed Virgin Mary) holding the Christ Child. Some bishops (and all primates of autocephalous churches) have the dignity of a second panagia.
  • Omophorion: of all episcopal vestments, this is considered to be the most important; the omophorion is a wide band of cloth worn about the shoulders
  • Mantiya: sleeveless cape that fastens at the neck and the feet, worn by the bishop when he formally enters the church before Divine Liturgy.

The following are not vestments, but are used by the bishop during services:

  • Orlets/eagle-rug: a small rug showing a single-headed eagle soaring over a city, on which the bishop stands during services.
  • Crozier/Pateritsa/Zhezlo: the staff; may be tau-style (T-shaped), with the crossbeam bent and surmounted by a cross, or serpent-style, showing two intertwined serpents, also surmounted by a cross.

Western Rite


  • Biretta - Counter-Reformation Roman evolution of the birettum. cylindrical headcovering, has three 'wings' for ease of donning and doffing. Pom-pom on top.
  • Cap - the medieval birettum, often called catercap (short for "Canterbury cap"), descended from the ancient pileus headcovering. Formed of four joined sections of material, generally square in shape, but soft and foldable. This is not authorized for usage in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate, but is used by the ROCOR Western Rite.
  • Cassock - a long sleeved garment worn beneath vestments and/or over street clothes by men, both clergy and laity. The two most common styles are Roman/Latin with buttons up the front, and the Sarum or English which is double breasted.
  • Cotta - loose short over-garment of white linen, with a square yoke, and short, broad sleeves used in Tridentine use.
  • Hood - originally a short cape with a hood, worn by those who have taken a degree as part of choir dress (for public prayers of the Hours) in English use.
  • Tabard - a waistcoat without sides or sleeves, worn as part of the monastic habit.
  • Tippet - a long scarf worn at choir office over hood and surplice, a component part of the hood. Those worn by a priest will be black and generally very wide. A special form worn by readers is thin and of a blue material. This is not authorized for usage in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate, but is used by the ROCOR Western Rite.
  • Surplice - loose over-garment of white linen, now usually gathered at the neck, with wide sleeves. It is the northern equivalent of the Classical alb from which it descended. Counter-Reformation Roman style will be generally shorter, may be all lace or hemmed with wide bands of lace. The medieval style (also called Old English, Anglican, Benedictine, or cathedral style) is without lace, much longer with very wide (pointed or rounded) sleeves. Some Roman styles have a square yoke or close-fitting sleeves. Older styles were worn with belt or cincture as on the alb.


  • Alb - linen overgarment, worn with a cincture (belt or rope) over the cassock and for clergy, beneath liturgical vestments. The baroque Roman form has lace cuffs and from hips down. In the medieval or English forms, worn with square apparels on the front and back lower hem, and on the cuffs. In northwestern Europe the alb developed into the surplice.
  • Amice - square of linen with ties, originally worn on the head as a hood, now worn thrown back over the alb purportedly to protect vestments from sweat and oil. In medieval or English use it often has a rectangular apparel forming a collar when thrown back.
  • Apparels - pieces of brocade worn on the amice and alb in English or medieval style as decorations.
  • Chasuble - the Eucharistic vestment, worn only by the celebrating priest (and at certain services in Lent, folded up at the shoulders, by deacon and subdeacon). Original form is the Conical, being a half-circle of cloth joined in the front. The medieval chasubles were cut away at the sides and called Gothic. In the Counter-Reformation, the form was abbreviated extremely and stiffened to the 'fiddleback' shape, particularly for use in hot climes. The Gothic revival style is based upon the look of the Gothic (cutaway conical) when worn.
  • Cincture - a belt, most commonly of rope, anciently a band of silk and decorated with jewels.
  • Clavis - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration found on the Western dalmatic and tunicle.
  • Cope - a half-circle of cloth with a functional or non-functional hood, highly decorated. Clasped at the neck with a chain or rectangle of cloth called a 'morse'. Worn in processions, and by non-celebrating clergy during liturgy. Essentially identical in form to the Syriac phayno.
  • Crosier and Crook - pastoral staff in the form of a shepherd's crook, bearing a cross. Normally used by bishops and abbots.
  • Dalmatic - a wide sleeved tunic, slit up the sides. The normal eucharistic garment of the deacon. Decorated with two vertical bands connected by two horizontal bands (see clavis)
  • Maniple - a small thin band of cloth worn on the left wrist by clergy (subdeacon, deacon, priest, and bishop) at liturgy. Its purpose was originally to wipe the chalice with.
  • Mitre- pointed cap with two peaks: front and back. Classified by three levels of decoration and costliness. Worn by bishops and abbots. Early English or medieval style very short, made of felt, and slightly rounded with the peaks close together; Roman style much taller, of rigid material, and with the peaks sharper and further apart.
  • Orphrey - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration on Western vestments, particularly the chasuble.
  • Pallium - the narrow woolen stole granted to bishops of metropolitan rank and above in the Western church, and which denote their high authority. Derived from the himation, the Greek philosopher's mantle, also worn by ascetics in the early Church.
  • Rochet - in the traditional style, refers to a floor length linen garment with a round yoke similar to an alb, but with close fitting sleeves, often tied at the cuffs. Also a flowing floor length linen garment with slits at the sides and sometimes over sleeves, worn by servers. In baroque Roman form a thigh length linen garment, more fitting than a surplice, similar to the alb but worn un-belted. Is generally gathered close around the neck and wrists. Lace around cuffs and bottom third.
  • Stole - a narrow band of cloth worn about the neck hanging down. The method of wear denotes the office: straight down for bishop, crossed at the breast for priest, crossed at the side for deacon.
  • Tunicle - a wide sleeved tunic, slit up the sides, generally smaller in scale than the dalmatic. Decorated with two vertical vertical bands (clavis) - normally worn by subdeacons at liturgy, can also be worn by the crucifer, thurifer, and clerk.

See also


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