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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

Non-liturgical items

  • Anterri/Podrjaznik: Inner cassock, but does not have buttons down the front like the Roman cassock
  • Exorasson/Ryassa/Jibbee: Outer cassock; a large, flowing garment
  • 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 archpriest, and there is no distinction made between various levels of crosses.
  • Skufiya: a soft-sided cap, may be peaked (Russian style) or flat (Greek style)
  • Kamilavka/kameloukion: a stiff hat, may be cylindrial with flattened conical brim at the top (Greek style), flared and flat at the top (Russian style), or cylindrical and flat at the top (Serbian style)
  • Klobuk: a kamilavka with a veil that extends over the back; all monks may wear the klobuk; the veil itself is called an epanokameloukion, and for Slavic metropolitans is white rather than black.

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

Liturgical items

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, it is worn on the right 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/Zhezl: 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 - Roman form of cylindrical headcovering, has three 'wings' for ease of donning and doffing. Pom-pom on top.
  • Cap - English form of headcovering, often called Catercap (short for Canterbury cap), close to the ancient pileus. Formed of four joined sections of material, generally square in shape, but soft and foldable.
  • 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.
  • 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. Those worn by a priest will be black and generally very wide. A special form worn by Readers will be thin and of a blue material.
  • Surplice - loose over-garment of white linen, gathered at the neck, with wide sleeves. Roman style will generally be shorter, often hemmed with wide bands of lace. Anglican or Old English style is without lace, much longer with very wide (pointed or rounded) sleeves.


  • Alb - linen overgarment, worn with a cincture (belt) over the cassock and beneath liturgical vestments or as outer garment for a server.
  • 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.
  • 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. Later types were cut away at the sides and called Gothic. In the Renaissance, form was abbreviated extremely and stiffened, 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 of silk and decorated with jewels.
  • 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, bears 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 stripes connected by two horizontal bands.
  • 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. English or Medieval style very short, Roman style much taller.
  • Orphrey - the gilded and embroidered bands of decoration on Western vestments.
  • Rochet - long linen garment, more fitting than a surplice, similar to alb but worn un-belted. Is generally gathered close around the neck and wrists.
  • 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 stripes - normally worn by Subdeacons at liturgy, can be worn by other crucifer, thurifer, and clerk.

See also


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