A STITCH IN TIME: faith, art and history in thread

‘Receive,’ says the Bishop at ordination, ‘the priestly vestment by which is signified charity’. The Chasuble is certainly the most important and conspicuous garment worn by the clergy. This vestment (Latin for clothing) traces its origins to the Greek and the Roman world.

Initially, the priest would dress in the secular style while discharging duties at the altar. Gradually, a sense of the sacred was attributed to these garments. They had to be cleaner and neater than those used in daily occupation. Thus a refined appreciation for special liturgical garments developed.

Etymologically the word Chasuble is derived from the Latin word ‘casula planeta’ signifying ‘little house.’ It was a garment used by the lower classes and by women in bad weather. From the 5th century, a richer style was adopted by the Roman upper class for ceremonial use. This then formed the immediate ancestor of the present-day chasuble. The chasuble consists of a square or a circular piece of cloth, in the center of which a hole is made, through which the head is passed. It resembles a little house, a shelter for the priest.

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