The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religions, especially the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches. Many Protestant groups also make use of vestments.

For the Catholic Mass the priest wears special garb or vestments, each article of which symbolizes a spiritual dimension of the priesthood, with roots in the very origins of the Church: the Amice (helmet of salvation), Alb (a figure of perfect integrity), Girdle (typifies sacerdotal chastity), Maniple (akin to a handkerchief reminding us that it is our lot to sow tears), Stole (a vestment of distinction, a symbol of immortality), Chasuble (an emblem of charity), and Biretta (headgear worn by seminarians and all clergy except the Pope); the Dalmatic and Tunic are normally for the deacon, though Bishops may wear it under the Chasuble on particularly solemn Masses. In some measure these vestments harken to the Roman roots of the See of Peter.

Below are some of the more common vestments of the Roman Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian Churches.


Body garments


Eastern Orthodox vestments

Non-liturgical items

(Some of them may be worn during the course of the liturgy as well.)

  • Podryasnik (Russian: подрясник) - inner cassock, but does not have buttons down the front like the Roman cassock
  • Ryasa (Russian: ряса), rason - outer cassock, a large, flowing garment
  • Pectoral cross - in Orthodoxy, the pectoral cross is the sign of a priest, not a bishop; 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)
  • 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.

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
  • 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 (Russian: набедренник) - 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 (Russian: палица, literally: club) - like the nabedrennik, except it is diamond-shaped and always worn on the left side; also a clergy award. It is considered to symbolise the weapon of the Holy Word or a sword of Jesus. The origin is unknown; probably a handwipe cloth.
  • Mitre - not like the Roman miter, it is very much like a crown, and is adorned with icons; this is a clergy award for priests; 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
  • Mitre - all bishops wear this; the episcopal mitre 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 patriarchs, 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 - A 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 (Russian: орлец) - a small rug showing an eagle soaring over a city, on which the bishop stands during services.
  • Pateritsa (патерица)/Zhezl(жезл)/Crozier - 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.

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04