Project Canterbury

The Parson’s Handbook

By the Rev. Percy Dearmer, M.A.

London: Grant Richards, 1899



1. Liturgical Colours.—It will clear the ground if we consider first the question of colours. Although there is still great confusion on this subject, and almost universal misunderstanding, the question is, in the light of recent research, a simple one, and one also about which the experts are agreed. The following axioms may with safety be dogmatically stated—

(1.) The colours used should be those which were in use at the time specified by the Ornaments Rubric. The Prayer Book does not refer us to the earliest sequence (or fragment of a sequence) that we can find, but to the year 1548-9.

(2.) The colours generally used at that time were the white, red, violet, green, and black sequence, which is again most commonly used in England at the present day, with the addition of yellow or green for Confessors and of red for Passiontide.

(3.) At the same time there was never anything like a rigid uniformity; exceptions of every kind abound in the inventories; and poor churches were not expected to have a complete suite of vestments; nor have the special ‘shades’ of colour sometimes advocated any authority beyond that of certain ecclesiastical shops.

It will be obvious at once to the reader that ignorance of the above facts has led to two very unfortunate [73] errors. On the one hand some clergy, through a laudable desire to be faithful to English tradition, have attempted to revive the local Salisbury use, and thus have considerably puzzled both themselves and the faithful. Some clergy, on the other hand, offended by the want of clearness of the so-called Sarum use, have adopted the white-red-green-violet sequence; but, misled by the claims of the Salisbury ritualists, have thought that in so doing they were committing themselves to Rome. Incredible as it may seem, these loyal Anglicans adopted the word ‘Roman use,’ and believing themselves committed to Roman Catholicism in externals they took as their pattern the modern developments of that Church, and came to neglect with a most strange persistency those things which are ordered by lawful authority. The result has been a widespread spirit of lawlessness in the Church, which has alienated many faithful churchmen, made the winning of those outside more difficult, and given some show of justice and some measure of power to those who attack the Catholic basis of the Church of England. In a word, it has made the Church appear ridiculous to the average layman, to the Dissenter, to the Agnostic, and certainly not least to the Roman Catholic.

Unfortunately, too, while the Ornaments Rubric refers us to all that was best and most beautiful in ecclesiastical tradition, the present Roman Catholic customs and ornaments represent the lowest pitch to which the decline of art and craftsmanship, and the growth of the commercial spirit, have ever reduced religious ceremonial.

No doubt, had the word Sarum never been introduced, the loyal Anglican clergy would have used the words English Use, and the hitherto untried plan of honestly obeying the Prayer Book would have become general, to the honour of the Church and the confusion of her enemies. The misfortune was that the [74] clergy thought they must either be ‘Sarum’ or ‘Roman,’ and the many difficulties of the former use drove them, as they thought, to the latter.

Putting on one side the peculiar customs of modern Rome as out of the question for every man who has taken vows of obedience to the Prayer Book, let me point out why the so-called Sarum use is also undesirable, (1.) The Prayer Book does not refer us to the diocese of Salisbury of the fourteenth century, but to the England of the sixteenth. (2.) No one knows what the Sarum use as to colours was for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Ascensiontide, Whitsuntide, and Trinity Sunday; consequently the so-called Sarum uses are really one-half made up from the fancy of nineteenth-century ritualists. (3.) The common idea is that only those four colours which are casually mentioned in the Sarum books were used,—white, red, yellow, and (in some MSS.) black. But the inventories show that in Salisbury cathedral itself there were in 1222 vestments of Violette, Purpurea, de Serico Indico (of blue silk); in 1462 altar-cloths of purple, blue and black, white and blue, chasubles of purple and blue, altar-cloths and vestments of red and green; in 1536, three green copes and five chasubles, with tunicles, etc., of green; while the inventories, taken in the very year 2nd Edward VI., to which our Rubric refers us, give the vestments of the chantries in the cathedral as of ‘white, red, blue, green, black, purple, motley, of blue black and white combined, and “braunched of dyverse colours,” with white for Lent.’[1]

It is clear, then, that those colours, violet and green, which are commonly thought to be peculiarly Roman were actually included in the Sarum use of the sixteenth [75] century, and violet and blue, at least, in that of the thirteenth.

As it is impossible to tell how these colours were used at Salisbury, owing to the imperfect information of the books, we are forced to go to those dioceses where the order was set down more completely and distinctly. We have this more complete information in the case of the following dioceses,—Lichfield, Wells, Exeter, London, and Canterbury. The latest of these—the nearest, that is, to the time of the Ornaments Rubric—are the Pontificals of London (1406-26) and of Canterbury (1414-43); and the only complete ones are those of Exeter, London, and Canterbury, which were set forth by the bishops of the time. The London inventories show that the Pontifical was generally followed, but all inventories show a considerable amount of local variation.

Now, Exeter agrees almost exactly with London and Canterbury (which are identical), and curiously enough, both agree very nearly with what is known of the Sarum use (though not with the fancy ‘Sarum use’ which nineteenth-century theorists have compiled). The only important variation is that at Salisbury (as at Wells) red is given from Trinity to Advent,[2] instead of green (though the mention of green in the later inventories seems to show that Salisbury may have come round to the general use). If we put these uses together, therefore, supplementing what is wanting in the Sarum use by what was ordered in the Pontificals, we get the use which I have called English, with the exception that red was used for the Sundays after Trinity and Holy Innocents Day, and white for Pentecost. If we go further, and prefer the Pontificals because they are of a date nearer to that of the Ornaments Rubric—which is [76] the most reasonable course—we shall substitute green for the Sarum red of the Trinity season; and even here we shall very likely not be departing from the actual custom at the Salisbury of 1548.

Thus we arrive at a sequence that was in national use at the time of the Ornaments Rubric, and was authoritative; and yet we have not departed from what is known of the actual use of Sarum in anything but the use of violet for the Innocents and red for Pentecost, if we retain the Sarum Passiontide red, which is allowed by the Pontificals. This sequence, too, differs but very slightly from the Roman sequence which is so well known at the present day. So closely have the issues been narrowed down by recent investigation!

If, instead of starting from Sarum, as I have here done for the sake of argument, we take our stand upon the Pontificals, which is by far the safer course, we can have no hesitation whatever in deciding upon violet for the Holy Innocents, red for Pentecost, and instead of the Sarum ‘Sunday’ red we shall use the far more intelligible and more convenient green; and shall have the option of continuing the violet through Passiontide.

While allowing the optional use of violet for Passiontide (which is an obvious convenience in the case of poor churches), I would plead for the use of red (with black or dark blue orphreys and apparels for preference) at this season on these grounds. (1.) It is more in accordance with liturgical propriety to change the colours at Passiontide: every diocese except that of Rome formerly did so. (2.) It is more instructive to the people, and a most useful and beautiful enrichment of the colour sequence. (3.) The Pontificals do not insist upon violet; they only say that it is to be used ‘till Maundy Thursday, or, according to some churches, till Passion Sunday.’ (4.) The Exeter sequence, which is so close to the [77] Pontificals, also gives violet up ‘to Maundy Thursday, or, according to some, until Passion Sunday.’ Later, in mentioning red it says, ‘according to some, within Passion week (and on Maundy Thursday if the bishop does not celebrate) red must be used,’ and again, ‘on Maundy Thursday, when the Bishop consecrates the chrism, white, otherwise red.’ (5.) Salisbury, Lichfield, and Wells all order red only. (6.) The inventories prove that red was still so used in the sixteenth century.

This sequence of the Pontificals and of Exeter, clear, complete, and authoritative as it is, has the additional practical advantage of being nearly identical with the sequence which obtains almost everywhere to-day.[3]

Fortunately, the English colour-sequence which I am describing can be obtained by every one in Dr. Legg’s Churchman’s Oxford Calendar (Mowbray, 1s.) and in the small penny Calendar published by the same firm. The only alterations I would in all humility suggest are the use of yellow instead of green for Confessors, and of the Passiontide red (with black apparels and orphreys). These would not, I think, be objected to by the compiler.[4]

Yellow seems to be a better colour for Confessors than green, as it is more generally understood; to use green for Confessors in Trinity-tide, for instance, is sadly confusing, now that green is everywhere understood as the ferial colour. Liturgically the question is unimportant, as yellow and green were regarded as interchangeable. Our latest Pontificals (London and Canterbury) order yellow; and, as they agree in this with Salisbury as well as with Exeter [78] (though the latter allows green as an alternative), we are following the most general authority in preferring yellow. Among the dioceses mentioned on p. 75, the only exceptions are Wells (blue and green), and Lichfield (varius, a word of uncertain meaning).

The use of white for Lent was practically universal in the sixteenth century and earlier. It was generally of plain stuff, fustian, linen, or canvas, with crosses, roses, or other devices of red or blue. But it is nowhere ordered, and seems to have been simply a popular custom. It is therefore not binding on us, though allowable; but as its revival now would be a very unpopular custom, confusing the much-tried layman, who naturally associates a dark colour with Lent, I submit that it has little chance of obtaining amongst us, and that its introduction would only increase the present confusion.

The ‘violet’ for Lent does not of course mean the unpleasant colour (so remote from the colour of the violet flower) at present provided by the shops. There is no such restriction as to tints, and dark blue or purple is equally suitable for Lent. It may be mentioned here that there is not a single authority —in the Sarum books or elsewhere—for the use of red either in Lent (except in Passiontide) or Advent.[5]

Here is the colour-sequence ordered in the latest Pontificals, those of London and Canterbury (1406-26, and 1414-43). The principal variants of other dioceses are given in brackets. — Advent, violet or purple: Christmas, white: St. Stephen, red: St. John Evan., white; H. Innocents, violet (Exeter, and all others, red): Circumcision, white: Epiphany, white: Ep. oct. to Septuagesima, green: Septuagesima to Passion Sunday, [79] violet or purple: ‘according to some churches’ the use of violet is allowed by the Pontificals to stop on Passion Sunday. (Passion Sunday to Easter Eve, Salisbury, Lichfield, Wells, red.) Palm Sunday, violet or purple (Exeter, violet or red): Maundy Thurs. white (Exeter, white or red): Good Friday, black (Exeter, violet or red): Eastertide, white: Rogations, violet or purple: Ascensiontide, white: Whitsuntide, red: Trinity, white (Exeter, green or white): Trinity to Advent, green (Salisbury and Wells, red): Feasts of B.V.M., Nativ. John Bap., Michaelmas, white: St. Mary Mag., yellow: All Saints, white (Exeter, red and white, or all colours): Apostles, Martyrs, Evangelists, red (all the English sequences have red for Evangelists as against the Roman white): Confessors, yellow (Exeter, yellow or green, Wells, blue and green, Salisbury, yellow; none have white): Requiem, black (Exeter, black and violet).

To this it may be added that the colour for Dedication Festivals has everywhere been white.

2. Vestments.—With regard to all ornaments and vestments one precaution is most necessary. The parson must make it clearly understood that he will not accept a single thing for the church unless the advice has first been sought of that person who overlooks the decoration of the church. Who that person is will depend on circumstances, but he must be a competent judge; and committees are useless unless their members are modest.

If this precaution is not taken the services of the church are certain in time to be vulgarised. Some kind friend will work an impossible stole; another will compose a ruinous frontal, and, without warning any one, present it as a pleasant surprise when it is finished; another will be attracted by some brass-work of the gilt-gingerbread order in a shop-window, and with a smile of kindly triumph will deposit it one [80] day in the vestry. It will be too late then for the parson to protest: all these good people will be hurt (and one cannot blame them) if their presents are rejected. But if it be publicly explained beforehand that beauty of effect is a most difficult task, for which a life-long training is required—and that a church must suffer if left to the chance of a multitude of individual tastes, this catastrophe will be avoided.

Sometimes one is tempted to think that folk consider anything good enough for a church. But this is not generally the case. It simply is that the elements of artistic knowledge have not yet entered the heads of many people,—and will not, unless the Church educate them by its example. Simplicity, unity, proportion, restraint, richness of colour, ecclesiastical propriety,[6] these things are simply not understood by a vast number. It is not their fault; they have had no opportunity of learning: they want to help the church, and they will do so well if they are only taught; but, if not, it will not cross their minds that decoration without harmony is just as excruciating as music without harmony.

When a parson has no ear he generally has the wisdom to put the music under good advice. It should be just the same when he has no eye. He must remember that those who have not this defect will be driven from the church by faults which to them offend not only against the eye, but against the heart and intellect as well. If the vulgarities both in music and other forms of art, with which nearly every church is at present soiled, do not soon pass away, the quiet alienation of the most educated sections of the community will have gone too far for recovery.

The vestments worn by authority of Parliament in the year to which we are referred were—the cassock, surplice, hood, tippet or scarf, cap (choral cope), the [81] albe and amice with their apparels, girdle, stole, maniple, chasuble, cope, dalmatic and tunicle, humeral veil, the rochet, the verger’s gown.[7]

The Cassock in its English traditional form is double-breasted without buttons down the front, and kept in position by a broad sash. In this form it was worn (generally with the gown) as the usual out-door dress of the English clergy down to the beginning of the present century;[8] and in this form it still survives, somewhat attenuated, in the bishop’s ‘apron,’ and in those churches where the preaching gown is used. The usual medieval shape seems to have been more single-breasted, with two or more buttons above the waist, but with none below; in fact, like the coat now worn by the boys of Christ’s Hospital; and in some brasses the cassock is belted with a buckled strap. It was very like that worn by civilians; and the clergy seem to have used what they found convenient, with some regard to the usual out-door dress of the period. Nowadays cassocks with buttons down the front are often worn; but neither beauty nor convenience is gained by the excessive number of buttons that one sometimes sees, and the buttons, unless they are made flat, are apt to stick into the knees. Now that the civilian’s dress is shortened it seems hardly incumbent on the clergy always to wear their cassocks. But on the way to church, in the schools, at confirmations, at clerical meetings, there can be no reason for ignoring Canon 74, which orders the clergy ‘usually’ to wear the cassock, and with it the cap and gown, a beautiful dress. On state occasions the hood and tippet should also be worn.

[82] Some sort of girdle or cincture has been long in use. The traditional shape since the time of Laud has been that of a broad band of black material. A short cloth band may be fastened with three buttons. A long sash had better be tied in a simple knot at the left side.

The Surplice. The pre-Reformation surplice, like that which has continued in use down to our own time, was very long and full.[9] To the mimicry of Rome which has obtained in some quarters we owe the short garment that is now sometimes seen, undignified and ungraceful. To wear a thing of this sort is scarcely to obey the Ornaments Rubric; it is as if a boy should wear a bathing-costume at a cricket match when he was told to wear a suit of flannels.

The surplice should fall to within about six inches of the ground, or to the ankles; and at the very shortest—by way of transition—nothing should be tolerated that is not well below the knee. It may be mentioned here that men are apt to think their surplices longer than they really are, because, when one leans forward to look at the length of the garment, it drops several inches in front.

A further cause that has led to the gradual cutting down of garments is the rage for cheapness, and the desire of the tailor to save as much material as possible. Before vestments became a commercial article, they remained full, on the Continent as well as here. Now the worship of Mammon has so far [83] intrenched on the honour due to God that the sweater has his own way with us, and it is considered seemly for a minister to appear in church in the garment called a ‘sausage-skin,’ a so-called surplice that is not only short, but is entirely deprived of gathers, so that a few extra halfpence may be saved from the cost of worship.

Smocking has plenty of precedent for surplices. But it is not in the least necessary, while shape is. As for fulness, the most beautiful surplice (that like those represented on medieval monuments) will have a circumference of about 4½ yards. Surplices should never button in the front.[10] The most graceful sleeves hang down within a few inches of the skirt-hem, and are turned back over the hands; for preaching it will generally be found more convenient to use a surplice with sleeves that, while hanging nearly as low, do not extend beyond the wrist at the top.

It need hardly be said at the present time that there is no English precedent for the use of lace. It simply destroys all beauty of drapery in any garment upon which it is placed. Every artist will realise how much this means. Indeed, to the credit of our fellow-Christians on the Continent it must be said that they are rapidly discarding the use of lace, and with it that most indecent garment the cotta, which is fortunately not one of the vestments ordered by our Rubric. The ancient monastic orders have always retained, and still use, the full surplice.

The parson will therefore use a gentle authority against the good ladies who unconsciously try to approximate church vestments to the feminine attire with which they are familiar. For ecclesiastical [84] vestments are for men, and it will be a bad day for us when we forget this fact. Of all the many vestments used at different times in the Church a well-cut surplice is perhaps the most beautiful.

The Hood has come down to us by custom, and its origin is obscure. None the less it clearly belongs to the ornaments of our Rubric, for the Prayer Book of 1549 shows that it was well established in its academical form at that time,—graduates, it says, may use in quire ‘such hood as pertaineth to their several degrees, which they have taken in any university within this realm.’[11] Considering the conservatism of university authority, we may safely assume that the distinctive varieties of the academical hood were no new thing in 1549. Canon 58 orders it for all the clergy who have a degree, as well as the surplice.

A caution is necessary against the attempts sometimes made by tailors to reconstruct ancient shapes of the hood out of their own fancies. The idea that buttons should be used is especially unfounded. The only safe course is to take the hood in its traditional shape as it is; if it does not draggle down too far at the back, and if it shows a little of its substance (not a piece of mere tape) in front, its comeliness and convenience cannot I think be improved. As for its length, I would venture to suggest as a good criterion both of comfort and proportion that it should barely touch the seat when the wearer is sitting down.

Some high-church clergy seem to have inherited the Puritan dislike to the hood, discarding it, in defiance both of authority and tradition. A century and a half ago this dislike of the hood was, more appropriately, the mark of a section of the low-church clergy.

The almuce need only be mentioned here, as its place was taken by the hood and tippet. Originally [85] a fur hood and cape combined, with long pendants in front, such as was much needed in the days when churches were very cold, it was replaced by the tippet or scarf, which was first of black material lined or edged with fur, then of black silk only.[12] The furred scarf was reserved for dignitaries, as it might be still.

The Tippet or Black Scarf. The old meaning of the word tippet has hardly yet died out; there are many clergymen of the Church of Ireland who can still remember hearing the ecclesiastical scarf called a tippet. It is so defined in Bailey’s Dictionary (1761). It would be a great pity to let the old meaning go; because the Canons on the subject must be misunderstood when the modern foreign idea of a short cape is read into the word tippet. ‘The tippet,’ says the Alcuin Club tract on the Ornaments Rubric,[13] ‘was a scarf generally of black silk, sometimes lined with fur.’

There is no known authority for confining the use of the tippet to dignitaries and chaplains: that custom grew up in the days when the direction of the canons as to copes also fell into abeyance, and is paralleled by the general disuse of the hood among the parish clergy at the same time.[14] There is plenty of evidence that the use of the tippet was enforced upon the clergy by the Bishops from the time of Elizabeth to that of Charles II., and was much opposed by the Puritans, who hated the cap and tippet as much as [86] they hated the surplice. If in the light of this known contemporary practice we read Canon 58, which orders the tippets of non-graduates to be made of stuff, and Canon 74, which, dealing with the walking dress of the clergy, orders Masters of Arts holding any ecclesiastical living, not less than Doctors and Dignitaries, to wear both hoods and tippets of silk or sarsenet, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the tippet should be worn by all the clergy—of stuff by non-graduates (and presumably also by Bachelors), of silk by Masters and those above that degree.

The free use of black is so necessary to the beauty of all public services (a fact which artists well know, though it is generally forgotten by others) that the common substitution of coloured stoles for tippets is the more to be regretted. There is no authority, English or Continental, for the use of the stole in choir, while the black scarf or tippet has come down to us from before the Reformation, and the authority for its use is unmistakable.

The tippet should be worn outside the hood. The stitched gathers at the neck are a modern corruption of the tailors; besides spoiling the folds, they make the tippet wear out quickly. The tippet should be made of a piece of silk (or for non-graduates, cashmere or merino) long enough to fall within two inches of the bottom of the surplice, and from 13 to 19 in. broad, so that, when it is folded double and tacked, it forms a flat band from 6 to 9 in. broad. If the material be thin and soft, it may be even broader, and will need an interlining. The ends may be pinked (in zig-zags) with a pair of scissors, without any use of the needle. The tippet should be kept folded up flat; and a twist at the neck into three folds, in putting it on, will cause it to hang as it should. Those clergy who feel the cold will do well to have a tippet interlined with thick wool for winter wear.

[87] The Cap, or ‘square cap,’ may have had its origin in the almuce. For the almuce was originally used to cover the head, and when it ceased to fulfil that function the cap seems to have been introduced. It has gone through several modifications: once of the comely shape that we see in the portraits of Bishop Fox and others, it developed in the seventeenth century into the form sometimes called the Canterbury cap (of limp material, with a tuft on the top), and then into the still beautiful college-cap in England, and abroad into the positively ugly biretta. There is no conceivable reason for English churchmen to discard their own shape in favour of a foreign one, except that the biretta offends an immense number of excellent lay folk, and thus makes the recovery of the Church more difficult.

English tradition since the Reformation has been against the wearing of any head-dress except the coif in church, from motives of reverence; and nowadays, when churches are heated, there is no need for anything but a skull-cap for those whose heads are sensitive. Canon 18 orders that ‘No man shall cover his head in the church or chapel in the Divine Service, except he have some infirmity, in which case let him wear a night-cap or coif.’ The well-known picture of the Seven Sacraments by Van der Weyden at Antwerp shows that in Flanders at any rate the coif was in general use at all kinds of services in the fifteenth century.

The biretta is a secular headgear as well as the college-cap; vergers and choristers wear it in France, and so do barristers. The Canterbury cap is on the other hand distinctively ecclesiastical as well as English; its shape seems now to be tending to the more compact older form; and, as our superiors have largely adopted it, there are good reasons for the parson to wear it with his cassock and for outdoor processions, unless he wears the college-cap.

[88] The Ornaments Rubric certainly does not cover the ceremonial use of a cap (still less of a biretta) at Mass. A cap was however used in choir (where there were many cutting draughts) and for processions. Some modern ritualists have given directions for the management of the biretta at Mass; but their footnotes will show that they have had to go for their authority, not to traditional sources, but to Le Vavasseur’s edition of Baldeschi.

The Choral Cope was no doubt also used for the sake of warmth: indeed, with this garment worn over the ample fur almuce, surplice, and cassock, the medieval parson must have been well muffled up. It was black, being often called the cappa nigra, and was more like a sleeveless gown than a stiff cope. Old effigies and brasses show that it fell gracefully from the shoulders to the heels, almost covering the arms. There does not seem to be any evidence of its use in parish churches, though it very likely was used in them. It is almost obsolete, perhaps because its protection in church came to be less needed. Its use for funerals and out-door processions in bad weather would save some washing and a few lives. Perhaps the short black cape (sometimes mistakenly called a ‘tippet’) which is worn by some over the cassock, and over the surplice out of doors, may be defended as an attenuated form of the cappa nigra. But the garment that Canon 74 orders us to wear over the cassock is the far more comely parson’s gown, or the university gown. For funerals, etc., the cappa might well be used in its original ample form.

The Amice was always worn to hang outside the other vestments, and apparelled. Apparels are so beautiful a feature in the English services that it is the more regrettable that some clergy should have discarded them, merely because they are now forbidden at Rome. The size of the amice should be [89] from 40 in. by 32, to 44 by 36; the tapes about 75 in. long. The apparel (p. 142) is tacked on to the side between the tapes.

The Albe, like the amice, should always be apparelled[15] (p. 90). It should be, like the surplice, much fuller than it is usually made, and the same length as the cassock. The former remarks about lace apply to every kind of vestment and ornament. Lace on albes is absolutely without authority. It is convenient for the albe to be open a little way down the front, and to be buttoned at the neck. Every server should have his own albe, which should be made to fit him.[16]

The Apparels are worn on the outside of the amice, and on the sleeves and skirt (back and front) of the albe. They may be of any colour and material that look well with the vestments, and they do not follow the seasons. For instance, red looks well with any vestments, bright blue sets off white very well, plain black serge is effective and appropriate with the red Passiontide vestments, etc. etc. Some forms of Oriental work are excellent for the purpose, and so are gold work and good old brocades: the colour should be rich and distinct; a large pattern often looks well when cut up into apparels. They can easily be made, and if tacked lightly on to the linen are not difficult to replace when this goes to the wash. A lady should be found who will be responsible for changing the apparels. Those on the sleeves should be tacked to the outside of each sleeve, a third of their length reaching over the top. Those on the [90] skirt should rest immediately above the hem, in the middle of the front and of the back. That on the amice lies close up to the edge, at an equal distance between the tapes, and is, like the others, tacked all round.

They are simple to make. The amice-apparel should be stiffer than the others: collar-canvas is a good interlining. The albe-apparels may be interlined with linen if the material has little substance. All should be lined with white or blue linen; and an edging of cord or braid is an improvement. The dimensions vary: the following are recommended for men, but boys’ apparels should be rather smaller:—Amice-apparel, 22 in. by 3½ in.; sleeve-apparels, 9 in. by from 3 to 4½; skirt do., 10 by 10 (or they may be longer and rather narrower).

The Girdle should be of linen rope. About 128 in. long is a very convenient size if it is used double, one end being then turned into a noose, and the tasselled ends slipped through.

The Stole is generally made too broad. The old ones were only about two inches across, slightly splaying at the ends. Crosses were seldom if ever put on the ends and back of the stole; but ornamentation of various kinds (sometimes the whole length of the stole) was common, as were also fringes, both on stole and maniple. The length of the eucharistic stole should be from about 8 ft. 2 in. to 9 ft: it should be long enough for the ends just to appear below the chasuble. The wretched custom of sewing a piece of lace on the middle of the stole is unnecessary, because our clergy are cleanly in their habits, they may not preach in the stole, and they cover it with the amice if they use it properly: it is a kind of anti-macassar, and belongs to that period.

The other stoles required for baptism, confession, marriage, and ministering the chalice will be little shorter, if a proper surplice is worn, and very little [91] broader. About 99 in. is a good length. For a small church a white and a violet stole will suffice.

The Maniple, like the stole, should be narrow without crosses, and fringed. A good length is from 2 ft. 7 in. to 3 ft., and the same width and decoration as the stole. Elastic is unnecessary: if the maniple be tacked so as to leave easy room for the arm, it will keep in position of itself so long as the arms are carried properly. No button is wanted.

The Chasuble. There has been a great variety in the shape of the chasuble, not only at different periods but at one and the same time also. On the whole the tendency for the last six hundred years has been to cut down the material: this has culminated in the strange and undignified stiff little vestment now used abroad, which may fortunately be dismissed as beyond our province. But a longer and more ample form of this square chasuble was in use at the time of our Rubric. It should not be stiffened; it may have a pillar or a Latin cross, and it should be about as long as a Gothic vestment, i.e. about 1½ yds. from the neck behind.

But the Gothic shapes, now commonly in use amongst us, are more beautiful, and truer on the whole to our traditions. The shape most frequently seen reaches nearly to the wrists, and very good vestments can be cut on these lines. The older shape is still fuller, and the sides have to be turned back over the wrist.

A substantial silk does not need any interlining, and in any case nothing like a stiff one should be used. The best orphreys are undoubtedly the Y-shaped (except where embroidered figures under canopy work are used), but these are generally made too broad. The medieval chasuble more often had no orphreys at all. There is no need in an English vestment for the pieces of ribbon without which it seems impossible to keep a ‘fiddle-back’ in position. [92] A properly made chasuble hangs straight and well of itself. A good length for a chasuble is 1½ yds. behind, and breadth at the widest part about 48 in. But they are not easy things to cut and make properly.

These vestments need not necessarily be made of silk.[17] It is a loss of effect to have the lining of the same colour as the vestment. Linings of blue linen are often very serviceable. For hot countries the lining may be dispensed with. Poor churches can make cheap and quite beautiful chasubles out of serge, unlined. As a general rule brocades or other materials bearing some design are best, with orphreys of a quite different colour and material. Embroidery is always a dangerous thing, and should only be undertaken under an artist’s direction.

The Cope is nearly semi-circular in shape, about 5 ft. by 10 ft. 8 to 11; it should have an orphrey from 3 to 9 in. in width, and a hood, of which the shapes vary considerably. The vestment itself need have no stiffening, but a stout interlining of collar-canvas will be needed for the orphrey. The cope is fastened by the morse, which may be of metal or of fabric. The hood may be detachable: it may hang either from above the top of the orphrey or from below it. The hood and the bottom edge of the cope may be fringed. The cope, like the chasuble, may be of any comely material, silk or otherwise.

It may be noted that, even in the days of Puritan aggression, our Canons would not permit the ministers at cathedral churches to escape from wearing the cope. If Bishops and Deans would avoid what is acknowledged lawlessness in discarding this vestment, they would find it easier to restrain lawlessness when it appears in other directions.

[93] The Dalmatic, for the Gospeller or Deacon, should have real sleeves, and not the mere epaulettes which have rendered the dalmatic abroad almost undistinguishable from the chasuble. The orphreys may be either two narrow strips at the sides, with apparels between, or simply one pillar.

The Tunicle, for the Epistler or Sub-deacon, only differs from the dalmatic in that it has a tendency to be somewhat less ornamental: there is no precise difference in ornament. Both may have tassels.

The tunicle for the Clerk may be somewhat simpler than that for the Epistoler. In a small church it would not matter if it were not in suite with the chasuble. In large churches the servers would probably be in accord with precedent if they too wore tunicles.

The gospeller also wears a stole over his left shoulder; both gospeller and epistler wear maniples.

The Humeral or Offertory Veil need not necessarily be in suite with the other vestments. It should be lined, and may be fringed at the ends. A good size is, either 8 ft. 7 in. by 1 ft. 8 in., or 9 to 10 ft. by 2 to 2½ ft.

The Rochet is simply a substitute for the albe. The albe needs a girdle, amice and apparels, and requires some care in the putting on. The rochet can be slipped on in a moment; and therefore it came to be very generally substituted for albes in the case of the clerks (but not of the Celebrant) at ordinary parish churches. No doubt it was for the same reason of convenience that it came to be part of the bishop’s everyday dress. Lyndewode tells us that the sleeveless rochet was sometimes worn by the priest at baptisms, also for convenience.

The rochet may be described as being between the albe and the surplice. It has narrow sleeves like the albe (unless it be sleeveless, when it has a slit down each side), but only falls to within some six [94] inches of the ground like the surplice. It should button at the neck, but it has neither amice, girdle, nor apparels.

I have stated its ancient purpose. In these days there is no less need for a garment that can be quickly slipped on. But the question will be raised, Does not the surplice suffice for this purpose? The answer is that the surplice is perfectly lawful for servers, at all rites and ceremonies, as well as for choristers: at the same time we shall be more in accordance with the Rubric if we find some use for the rochet. My own opinion is that the surplice looks best for adult servers; but that a very comely rochet can be made to suit boys. In the case of boy servers, it is of some practical importance that they should be distinguished from the choir-boys, to whom they should be models of seemly behaviour. It is here that I have found the rochet very useful as a substitute for the albe (and the servers will hardly wear albes at baptisms, children’s services, and week-day Eucharists, and in many churches not at the Sunday services either). To put it in another way. When albes are worn they must be worn with apparels and apparelled amices. If the parson does not want the trouble of apparels and well-fitting albes for the servers, he should not put them into plain albes, still less into cottas, but he may very well vest them in rochets.

The Verger’s Gown.—This is a very ancient garment, and the present tendency to put the Verger in parish churches into a cassock only (nearly always an ill-fitting one) is much to be regretted. The gown can be bought at any official tailor’s: it is best with velvet down the front and on the collar.

Choristers’ Vestments.—Where there is a surpliced choir, the men should wear, over their cassocks, surplices that are nearly or quite as full and long as those of the clergy, and the boys in proportion. The mean custom of putting them into things that are not [95] really surplices at all is not creditable to us. The cassock, by no means always worn under the surplice, even in Rome, for long after the sixteenth century, has become a necessity since the invention of trousers. When the ceremonial ruling of the choir was used, the rulers used to wear copes at all the principal services on the principal days. They also held staves.

3. Ornaments.—The ornaments here mentioned are those which are kept in the sacristy: those which stand in the church are dealt with in other chapters. The linen should be entirely without lace, and not of a thin or flimsy description. The embroidery should be confined to the small white crosses, which serve to mark the articles for their sacred purpose.

The Corporas or Corporal is a square piece of smooth linen, not less than 20 in.: it should be of a size to lie easily on the altar; for it must not hang at all over the front. It should always be folded in the same way, the most usual being to fold it first in three parts, beginning at the front, then from the sides again in three; thus, when spread out, it is divided by the folds into 9 squares. On one of these squares, usually the front square, one small cross may be embroidered.

The Pall at the time of the Rubric was simply a second corporal. This form of pall is also best adapted to our present needs; for, after the communion, when our rubric directs that what remains of the consecrated Elements shall be covered with a fair linen cloth, the pall should be unfolded for this purpose. Thus no new-fangled ‘cloth’[18] is needed [96] for the covering of the elements. The corporal that is used as a pall may easily be differentiated from the others by having a different mark, e.g. a cross on the outside fold.

Sometimes a square pall, made of two or three pieces of linen stitched together, and well stiffened with starch mixed with wax, is used. In this case, the only way to cover the Elements is to place the paten on the chalice, and the pall on the paten. This is hardly a straightforward and satisfactory way of obeying our two rubrics.[19] Certainly, the use of cardboard to stiffen this sort of pall, or of blotting-paper, is absolutely wrong, nothing but linen having been allowed about the Blessed Sacrament from very ancient times. Sometimes the corporals are stiffened with starch; which is convenient, and not altogether without precedent, but the ancient canons are certainly against the use of starch.[20]

The Purificator, a napkin of soft linen or diaper, for cleansing the chalice, may be marked with a very small cross in one corner. Sometimes purificators are made so small and of such thin linen that they do not properly serve their purpose. Thirteen inches is a good size. Six purificators should be supplied with every set of altar-linen. Thus, with a stock of two or three dozen, the clergy will not be in danger of running short and adopting the Roman custom of using the same purificators over and over again.

The Burse or Corporas Case was always used to contain the two corporals (i.e. corporal and pall), though chalice-veils were not. There is no rule as [97] to its ornamentation. It should be covered with silk or other material, lined with white linen, and stiffened with cardboard. A convenient size may be from 9 to 10 in. square, the larger size being best. It should be unfastened on three sides, so that it will open like a book. Every burse should have its two corporals always kept in it.

Curiously enough, the chalice-veil, which is so common to-day, is difficult to account for under our Rubric. It is probably to be traced to the ‘corporals’ of silk and velvet which we find in some fifteenth and sixteenth century inventories, and may have been chalice-veils. Soto (1494-1560) notes that in very many churches, in England and elsewhere, a sort of silken cover was used for enveloping the chalice while it was on the altar except at the sacring.[21] There is no reason why the chalice-veil should be ornamented in any particular manner: the usual embroidered devices are not good. There is no need for a chalice-veil when the humeral veil is used.

Towels for drying the hands at the offertory are generally made much too small. They should be of linen diaper about 3 ft. long by 2 ft. wide; then they will rest easily on the server's arm and be convenient to use. Like purificators, they may conveniently be folded in three. While purificators and corporals are hemmed, napkins may be pulled out at the ends, or all round, in a fringe. Two to a set will suffice.

The sacred vessels should be made by some genuine craftsman who is familiar with the traditional forms.

The Chalice has varied much in size and shape: the present tendency is to make it too high: medieval examples only range from 5 to 7 inches in height. The bowl should be quite plain within and without, or it will be difficult to cleanse. An ornamental knot [98] is usually made on the stem for convenience in holding it. On the foot a sacred device should be engraved to show the priest at which side to communicate himself and the people: the most common device was a crucifix.

The Paten is a circular plate, large enough to cover the chalice, with one or two depressions, circular or multifoil. Nearly every extant medieval example has a sacred device engraved upon it; but now that many breads are consecrated, perhaps a perfectly plain surface is more convenient.

The Ciborium is convenient for holding the breads when there are so many communicants that the paten is not safe. An extra chalice can be used for this purpose.

The ordinary Pyx is a small box (generally circular and of silver), which is kept in a purse with a cord if the Blessed Sacrament has to be carried to the sick. A bell and lantern were carried before the Blessed Sacrament on these occasions.

A private communion set is often used for the communion of the sick. One should be always kept in the sacristy. As a general rule the bowls and bases of these private chalices are made too small. In addition to the cruets there should also be a small box for the breads. The Cowley fathers have designed a convenient form of private altar for sick communions which can be bought at Mowbray’s.

For poor churches it will be found that pewter is a suitable and a comely material for the sacred vessels. It is far better than shams.

The Cruets for wine and water were generally of silver or pewter; they were distinguished from each other by some mark. Glass is, however, more easy to keep clean. For glass it is better not to have metal fittings, so that if a cruet is broken it can easily be replaced; glass stoppers are the easiest to take in and out. The Whitefriars Co. make cruets (p. 67).

[99] The Bason.—Two silver basons seem to have been ordinarily used, the water being poured from one to the other. For economy, a plain glass bowl can be bought anywhere, and a little glass jug. The cruet should not be used.

A Box for Altar Breads of silver or pewter was used, and is most convenient.

The Censer needs no special description here. Where silver is out of the question, I have found that white metal is cleaner, lighter, and more effective than brass, but the metal is of course a matter of taste. The total length may be 43 in. The incense-boat and spoon are mentioned on p. 106.

The Processional Crosses may be three in number, one (which was generally of wood and painted red or green and without a figure) being reserved for Lent, and a third for funerals. Of the processional cross, as of most other things, it may be said that proportion comes first, workmanship second, and material third; the latter without the two former being worse than useless. A poor church can have a very beautiful cross of wood, which is much better than a badly designed and executed one of greater pretension. The cross should not be kept exposed out of service time. A tall locker or a stand in the vestry will be convenient, and in new churches provision should be made for this. The smallest length for cross and staff together would be about 6 ft. 8 in.

The Processional Torches, of which two will be wanted, had better be of wood (green and red were common colours). The bases should be separate and weighted with lead, so that the shafts of the torches can be easily dropped into them when they stand before the altar. If the cup of a wooden candlestick be rubbed with a little sweet oil, wax will not adhere to it. Forty-five inches is a good height.

Banners may vary considerably in size, shape, material, and device. Embroidered ones are expensive [100] if they are worth having; and if our churches had half as many banners, and those banners had twice as much spent on them, it would be far better. At the same time, a profusion of gold and silk is nothing in itself: a banner cannot be designed by amateurs who do not understand the craft (though they can often carry out the work under advice), nor can it be ordered from a shop like a pair of boots. The common idea is that the design is nothing, and the materials everything; but the design is everything, for it includes the selection of the right materials; and the design must be paid for—and, after all, the two or three pounds thus spent is but a small proportion of the money usually wasted on pretentious and vain banners. There are good designers at the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, and at Morris’s. For an important banner it will be well to consult the Clergy and Artists’ Association. I may mention as examples of what banners can be, those designed for St. Alban’s, Teddington, by Mr. Skipworth, and that for Worcester Cathedral by Mr. Gere.

Of course it is true of banners as of everything else that simple ones can be made which are quite cheap and yet beautiful—if they are unpretending. The thing always is to find the right person. It is for this reason that I make no apology for recommending those societies which are artistic and not commercial in their aim, and whose business it is to find out who are those qualified to practise the arts. There are a very large number, especially among the younger artists, who understand design. The parson has no means of finding them out; and therefore he has been generally driven, in the case of embroidery, to the professional church-embroiderer, whose ignorance of the fundamentals of the art is often not less profound than his ignorance of the elements of ecclesiastical tradition.

[101] The Wands for the Churchwardens are of wood, according to a very constant tradition in our Church, either plain, or painted white, with a few inches at the end blue or gilt. Sometimes they bear a device.

The Verge, which is carried by the officer to whom it gives his name, may be of wood tipped with metal, or of metal with a device, as in our cathedrals.

The Gospel Lectern may be of any material, and the desk may be covered with a long lectern-cloth.

The Paschal Post or Candlestick may be conveniently of painted wood.[22] It should be not less than 6 ft. high. Owing to the size of the candle it is necessary that the greater part of it should be a wooden stock, called anciently a Judas. It is better in my opinion to omit the grains of ‘incense,’ which are generally shams and not incense at all, and are said to be due to a mistranslation of a phrase in the Exultet, ‘incensi hujus sacrificium,’ which really meant ‘the sacrifice of this lighted candle.’

The Tenebrae Herse[23] is a triangle made generally of three pieces of wood about 3 in. broad, 1 in. thick, the lower piece 4 ft. long, the two upper pieces 3 ft. each, and fixed on to a stand similar to those used for music but more substantial; the whole may stand 5½ ft. from the ground. Along the two upper edges of the triangle should be bored 24 holes to carry the candles.[24] Both the herse and the Paschal Post should be carefully wrapt up and kept in the store-room.

There remain to be mentioned the funeral accessories.

The Bier or Herse should be higher than is generally [102] made (say, about 4 ft.). The handles should drop slightly at the ends.

The Pall. There is at the present day an unnecessary hankering after gloom at funerals. The ancient palls mentioned in Mr. Bancroft Randall’s paper on the Burial of the Dead[25] are of cloth of gold, of black velvet with wide cross all through of silver tissue, of red with a gold cross, of blue with a red cross, of black with a gold cross, and another of blue with a red cross. They were often also powdered with the badges, and had the scutcheons of the deceased sewn about the border. At the funeral of George II. a purple pall was used; the white embroidered pall used at Mr. Gladstone’s funeral will also be remembered.

The Processional Cross and the Funeral Candlesticks. These may be all made of wood and painted the same colour, and that colour is not bound to be black. Mr. Randall mentions four candles to stand round the herse as a minimum. Sometimes twelve were used.

A Handbell was always rung before the funeral procession.

Other Ornaments in use at the time of the Rubric may be mentioned more summarily, as it may be questioned whether there is now a ‘time of ministration’ for them. For fuller information about them the reader is referred to Mr. Micklethwaite’s invaluable Alcuin Tract on the Ornaments of the Rubric.

Although the small Lent veils may still be used, the great veil that was hung during Lent across the sanctuary is contrary to many of our rubrics and the spirit of the Prayer Book. The Monstrance and its processional Canopy raise questions which are beyond our province here. The same may perhaps be said of the Pax, holy-water vat and sprinkler, and also of the Easter Sepulchre.

[103] The chrisom, a white garment for baptisms, was ordered by the First Prayer Book. The churching-cloth, a white veil which the woman wore, was used long after that time.


Surplices, albes, rochets, copes, chasubles, etc., as well as altar-linen, apparels, frontals, etc., are made by the St. Dunstan Society, which has been founded in order to make ornaments and vestments in accordance with the standard of our rubric, and under fair conditions. The price list can be obtained from the secretary, St. Dunstan Society, 7 Cambridge Terrace, Edgware Road, W.


1 See Mr. St. John Hope’s collection of inventories in his paper to the St. Paul’s Ecclesiological Society (vol. ii.). At Lincoln (of which we possess the fullest inventories) there were 16 red chasubles, 3 purple, 6 green, 11 blue, 5 black, 9 white, 1 yellow, and 1 ‘varius.’

2 In practice this red would nearly always be superseded by the colour of a saint. One copy of the Customary, just published by Mr. Frere, seems to order green from the Wednesday after Trinity (26,285).

3 A perfect mine of information is provided by the paper of Mr. Hope already referred to, and by that of Dr. Legg in Vol. i. of the Transactions of the St. Paul’s Ecclesiological Society

4 E.g. Dr. Legg says of the London Pontifical that it, ‘among other improvements, allows a different and more sombre colour for the last fortnight of Lent.’

5 The mistake was caused by a rubric in the Sarum missal which directs the priest to bless the ashes in a red cope on Ash Wednesday. But this was the ferial colour; for Ash Wednesday was not then regarded as part of Lent, which began on the Sunday following, the Lent veils being hung up then.

6 This does not, of course, mean the exclusive use of so-called ecclesiastical designs (see p. 55).

7 See, for a careful examination of these vestments and ornaments, Mr. Micklethwaite’s Alcuin Club tract on The Ornaments of the Rubric.

8 Rev. T. A. Lacey, in an interesting article on ‘The Ecclesiastical Habit in England’ (S.P.E.S. Trans. iv. 2) mentions a Spanish traveller during the Peninsular War who remarked with surprise that our clergy were all dressed ‘like Benedictine monks.’

9 That the medieval surplice reached almost to the feet is known to every one who has seen an old brass. Since the Reformation, repeated Articles show what our 58th Canon means by a ‘decent and comely surplice with sleeves.’ Bp. Andrewes requires ‘a comely large surplice with wide and long sleeves.’ Bp. Montagu asks, ‘Of what assise be the Surplices, large or scantling? For not cheapnesse but decentnesse is to be respected in the things of God.’ Bp. Cosin asks, ‘Have you a large and decent surplice?’ And the same question we find asked at Durham since the last revision (c. 1715). See Perry, Church Orn., 349, 385, 451, 461.

10 The open buttoned surplice came in about the end of the seventeenth century, owing, it is said, to the growing habit among the clergy at that time of wearing a wig. Happily the wig is now obsolete in the Church as a ceremonial head-dress; and with it the reason for an open surplice, as also for the exaggerated opening to the hood.

11 P. 171.

12 See Dr. W. Legg, S.P.E.S. Trans. iii. ‘The Black Scarf and Grey Almuce,’ and Fr. Robinson in iv. 3.

13 P. 59.

14 Evidence on this and the other points here mentioned was given by me in the Guardian for October 13, 1897. Since then the evidence has been about doubled, and the meaning of the word ‘tippet’ is shown beyond dispute in Rev. Fr. Robinson’s article on ‘The Black Chimere,’ S.P.E.S. Trans. iv. 3. See also Robertson On the Liturgy, and Perry, Church Ornaments (208, 216-7, 263, 294, 387, 408, 461, and xl). At Court the youngest curate is still required to wear the tippet with his cassock and gown.

15 The direction in the First Prayer Book that albes are to be ‘plain,’ means that they shall not be of silk or any coloured or embroidered material. It does not refer to the use of apparels, which are entirely separate vestments. E.g. Bishop Goodrich’s monument in Ely Cathedral, temp. Elizabeth, where very gorgeous apparels are represented; and Goodrich was one of the compilers of the First Prayer Book.

16 The albe was in use as late as 1783 at Bedlow Church, Bucks (Perry, Purchas J., 105).

17 In e.g. the inventories quoted by Blunt (lxxvii.) there are 30 vestments of cloth of gold, 6 of silver, 30 of satin, 134 of silk, 16 of sarsnet, 226 of bawdkin, 146 of damask, 54 of tissue, 9 of chamlet, 6 of fustian, 2 of buckram, 8 of dornyx, 1 of serge, and 48 various.

18 The Scotch Liturgy of 1637 directs the Elements to be covered with ‘a fair linen cloth or corporal,’ which shows that Laud and Wren knew what they were doing. The rubric was not inserted in our Book till 1662. Both Durandus and the Sarum Missal speak of the covering of the chalice with the corporal, and Durandus further shows the identity of the pall and corporal by his use of the phrase palla corporalis.

19 Indeed it is a clumsy attempt to adopt the Roman pall to a purpose which is entirely different from that of the Roman rite. When the Romans do reserve the Sacrament till the end of Mass (as on Maundy Thursday), they use an additional veil for covering the same, just as we do. The ‘fair linen cloth or corporal’ is a necessity of our rite, because we practise reservation till the service is over (cf. J. W. Kempe, Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, 25-28).

20 See Mr. Atchley on Altar Linen in the S.P.E.S. Trans. iv. 3.

21 Cf. Mr. Cuthbert Atchley's article on ‘Variations from the Rule concerning the Materials of the Altar-linen’ (S.P.E.S. Trans. iv. 3).

22 Craftsmen will find a description of various forms of the candlestick in Feasey’s Ancient English Holy Week Ceremonial, cap. 9.

23 Herse or Hearse is derived from the Latin word for a harrow; it is here used in the meaning of its first derivation—‘a triangular framework for holding candles’ (Chambers’s Et. Dic.). Because of the candles the word came to be applied to the bier.

24 H. J. Feasey, Ancient English Holy Week Ceremonial, p. 91.

25 Transactions of the Society of St. Osmund, vol. 1. pt. iii.

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