It’s not uncommon, in today’s day and age, for members of the clergy to wear nothing more ornate than a black and white clergy shirt with a clerical collar.
It was once the case, however, that the standard priestly habit consisted of a cassock and cincture – specifically when the cleric was not engaged in the administration of duties. That is, the cassock and cincture are basically the “everyday habit” of ordained clergy.
It was also not uncommon for clergymen to wear cassocks and other vestments that were color-coordinated according to their office.
To that end, it’s fairly common for bishop’s cassocks to be purple. Their other vestments are commonly purple as well. But what is the reason for this?
Why Are Bishop Cassocks Purple?
It’s not just bishops that wear colored cassocks. In fact, other members of the clergy, such as cardinals, archbishops, monsignors, and priests often wear cassocks associated with their rank, being red, amaranth (sort of like a more purple-red), black and purple, and black, respectively.
The main reason that bishops wear the color purple has to do with the color’s significance in the medieval world.
Once upon a time, there was a civilization known as Phoenicia, on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. This civilization was highly successful, with expert sailors and savvy merchants.
It was their custom to create a rich, purple dye from a sea snail that lived in their area of the Mediterranean. They used this dye to color garments – but as it took so many snails to produce enough dye to dye only a small cloth, it was very expensive to do so.
Consequently, “Phoenician purple” as it is sometimes called, was very expensive. It was only worn by royalty and extremely wealthy tradesmen and dignitaries. Through the Medieval period and into the present, this color has become associated with wealth, status, and exclusivity.
The tradition of associating this power with justice, royalty, and status is likely the reason that bishops still wear it. It is also the case that “bishop” is a title that remains not only in the Roman Catholic Church but in other denominations as well, keeping the tradition of purple bishop’s cassocks alive.
What Other Vestments Do Bishops Wear?
Interestingly, it is not only the bishop’s cassock that is often colored purple. The traditional habit of the bishop and archbishop is much more expansive and includes many of the following vestments and accessories. These are often colored black, amaranth, or purple, just like the cassock:
●Stole: A thin band of silk, often worn over the shoulder.
●Chasuble: Sort of like a mantle; worn over the shoulders. The color changes according to the calendar but is often purple.
●Fascia: A wide belt worn about the cassock in lieu of a cincture.
●Headwear: Bishops often wear a purple skullcap known as a zucchetto, although the miter, a tall, pointed headdress, is more recognizable and worn for certain occasions.
●Ferraiolo: A purple cape sometimes worn by bishops for non-liturgical events or occasions.
Bishops also commonly wear a bishop’s ring, a pectoral cross, and an alb (when engaged in ceremony) although these are never purple.
Where Can I Get a Bishop’s Cassock
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