Monday, September 21, 2015

The Cope.

Here is another post about another liturgical vestment; the cope. In Italian we call it “piviale” from the Latin word “pluviale” which means rain coat, as the cope originates as an outdoor garment for priests, another word that confirms this is also “cappa”; a sort of cloak. It is a long mantle, open in the front where it is fastened. It can be of any liturgical color. Copes are worn by priests and bishops, usually during the offices or at Mass if this begins with the liturgy of the asperges for example, then it is substituted by the chasuble. Bishops wear it with a miter. It is worn above the surplice or by the alb at Mass.

Angels wearing copes in Hugo Van der Goes' Portinari Altarpiece in the Uffizi, Florence (1475).

The cope did not change much from its original versions: It is usually made of a piece of silk or in another rich cloth. Given the origin of the cope, usually, early ones had a hood which had the practical utility of covering the head during outdoor processions for example. It is also thought that the cope originates as a chasuble with its edges sewn together. One of the earliest example is the cappa of St. Gregory of Tours or that in the Miracle of St. Furseus which also happen to have a hood. We also have a letter written in 787 by the Benedictine abbot of Monte Cassino to Charlemagne about the dress of monks, in particular the cappa which used to be an everyday wear for monks. By that time there was a distinction between the liturgical cope and the everyday wear.

The Ascoli Cope in the MET, New York - a wonderful example of Opus Anglicanum (XIV century).

In the IX century copes were also used by members of religious choirs, especially in France, and later in most of Northern Europe. It was not until the XII century though that the cope became reserved to liturgy only, especially for more solemn celebrations. At High Mass it became the practice of everyone outside the celebrant and the servers to wear copes. We have the IX century account of Saint Trond Abbey in France where in fact copes outnumbered chasubles. The custom then spread to England. The cope was then still alternated with the cappa nigra or the cappa choralis, a choir cape made of black material used especially for the daily office. Though the cope was more liturgical. Copes were also used during synods and statues in the Middle Ages. It is in the late Middle Ages that the use of the cope became more unified, it became the vestments of processions and that of the daily office. But it was never worn in the Eucharist except by assisting priests at Pontifical High Masses in the Latin Rite, or by members of the choir in the Sarum Rite. Its use did not change much after Trent as it matured already during the very end of the Middle Ages, hence its use was already defined in the early Renaissance (XV century). At the end of the XVI with the Council of Trent the use of the cope as the vestment for processions, the liturgy of the hours, blessings or the eucharistic adoration became mandatory. The cope may be worn outside the Mass for the administration of other sacraments. Copes changed through the centuries with the different styles which also influenced other arts both religious and not. Its essence did not change much since the early days. A variation of the cope is the meantime, also known as papal mantle which is basically a larger cope and its use is reserved to the Pope of Rome.

Some Baroque copes at the London Oratory for Easter Vespers.

The cope is the only vestment that continued to be used in the Church of England over the surplice and the tippet. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer specifies that the Priest should wear a vestments or a cope during the Divine Liturgy. Copes were mostly used in Cathedrals, especially after the Restoration, sometimes used for the Eucharist… With the liturgical reform begun with the Oxford Movement in the XIX century the use of the cope became more or less the same as in the Church of Rome.

Archbishop of Canterbury, dr. William Temple wearing a cope at Evensong in 1942.

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