Bishop Apparel, Vestments & Accessories
As an ordained, consecrated or appointed member of the Christian clergy, the role of bishop serves an important function in the modern role of the Christian church. The bishop is also a testament of the historical continuity of the Church, which started in Rome with the Apostle Peter. The role of bishop is derived from the Greek word “επίσκοπος” or epískopos, which is translated to mean “guardian” or “overseer.” In some branches of the church, such as the Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox church, a bishop claims an apostolic succession — or a direct, historical lineage that dates back to the original Twelve Apostles.
Part of this rich tradition includes vestments. Vestments are a sacramental “uniform” of the chosen members of the clergy, which he or she wears as a function of ministry. Vestments are blessed by the church to increase devotion to those who see and use them.
Matthew F. Sheehan has provided this resource page to discuss some of the bishops’ apparel items and accessories, such as the cassock, crozier, pectoral cross, mitre, rochet and chimere, as well as the episcopal ring and the tippet. All of the bishops’ vestments and accessories discussed here can be purchased at Matthew F. Sheehan — the oldest Christian and religious apparel distributor in the United States. We have provided bishop and clergy attire since 1907, and continue to provide premium-quality bishops’ attire. If you have any questions about bishops’ apparel, bishops’ accessories and more, we are happy to assist you. Please contact us at 617-971-9800.
The word “cassock” comes from the Middle French word “casaque,” which meant “long coat.” It is an ankle-length garment with long sleeves that is a distinctive part of the bishop (and clergy) tradition. Some cassocks, such as in the Anglican denomination, are double breasted and button on the shoulders and the waist. Roman Catholic cassocks typically have 33 buttons directly down the middle of the garment — a symbol of the years of Jesus’ life. Some Anglican variants of the cassock have 39 buttons, which reflect the 39 Articles of Religion. Bishops often wear purple cassocks. Sheehan’s offers cassocks in several different colors, including black, red, white and purple.
The Rochet and Chimere
A rochet is a white, alb-like garment that is worn over the cassock. The word “rochet” is derived from the Latin word “rochettum.” It is made out of loose fabric, reaches the ankles and gathers at the wrist. The hems and the sleeves are sometimes decorated with lace details. The chimere is the upper robe of a bishop. It is a long, sleeveless gown in either a red or black material and is often made from silk or satin. It is open down the front, has slits for the arms and is gathered between the back shoulders. The chimere is the evolution of the medieval riding cloak and is worn over the rochet and the cassock.
Also known as “crosier,” the crozier is an ecclesiastical accessory/ornament. It used as a symbol of authority. This pastoral staff (or baculus pastoralis) comes from the word “crocia,” which means “crook” or “bend.” In the Western Church, the crozier has typically been the symbol of a shepherd’s crook — a metaphorical reference of a bishop as the shepherd of his/her “flock.” The shepherd reference comes from the Gospel of John (10:1-21) when the Lord identified Himself as the Good Shepherd.
The Tippet (Stole)
The tippet, also referred to as the “preaching scarf,” is a large black ceremonial scarf that is worn over the surplice and the cassock. It is worn around the neck during mass, during services, when engaging in official duties and when administering the sacraments. It reaches the knees; generally, each side sits parallel. In some churches, its color can vary according to the liturgical color of the day.
The Episcopal Ring
An episcopal ring is a finger ring worn by the bishop on the third finger of the right hand, signifying the bishop’s “marriage” to the church. In some denominations, it is sign of reverence: It is still proper in some settings for a layman or a lower-ranking cleric to kiss a bishop’s ring. These rings were sometimes used as relic receptacles. Further, three rings have historically been granted: the pontifical, the gemmed and the ordinary.
The Pectoral Cross
The pectoral cross (from the Latin “crux pectoralis”) is worn on the chest and is typically suspended by a chain or a cord, so that it rests near the heart. Many pectoral crosses are made out of precious metals (gold, silver, platinum), and some contain precious or semi-precious gems. One of the first mentions of a pectoral cross was in the year 461 A.D. Historically, pectoral crosses were sometimes made as reliquaries. Today’s pectoral crosses can be a plain cross or a crucifix, depending on the denomination of the bishop who wears it. When putting on a pectoral cross, a bishop may say “Munire me digneris,” asking the Lord for strength and protection against all evil and all enemies.
A mitre is a headdress and is worn for liturgical functions. References to headdresses can be found as far back as the Old Testament: Exodus 28:37, 38 states, “And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts.” Mitres have undergone many changes from their first written church references in the year 1049 A.D., when Pope Leo IX granted Bishop Eberhard of Trier the “Roman mitre” as a sign of his authority and the primacy of the Diocese of Trier. By 1100, a bishop customarily wore a mitre. Today’s mitre is often triangular in shape with its point facing upward.