An excerpt from the third book of the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durandus of Mende, Englished by T.H. Passmore:
Here beginneth the Book of the Vestments of Ornaments of the Church, as worn by Priests and Bishops, and other Ministers.
I. It behoveth not to wear the Sacred Vestments in the use of everyday. Whereby we mark, that even as we make change of vesture according unto the letter, so must we do also according unto the spirit, We may not enter therefore into the Holy of Holies with garments tainted by the use of common life; but with a pure conscience and with clean and holy raiment must we handle the holy things of God. Wherefore Stephen, Pope, did order that the Sacred Vestments should not be used, save in the rites of the Church, and in service meet for God; as saith Ezekiel in the forty-fourth chapter, THEY SHALL NOT SANCTIFY THE PEOPLE WITH THEIR GARMENTS. One raiment therefore hath Divine religion, for the Church's Offices; and another hath man for common use, to deliver the lesson of good conversation unto all Christian folk: to the end that they, being washed from their former foulness, may be made new men in Christ. For at such time the Priest doth doff the old man with his doings, and putteth on the new man, made in the image of God. By the vestments, moreover, as worn only in sacred services, we do understand that not all holy things are to be unfolded unto the people. Note also that in the days of the Emperor Ludovix, the son of Charlemagne, the Bishops and clergy laid aside their girdles wove with gold, and their exquisite garments and other trappings of the world.
2. Now the Sacred Vestments seem to have been taken from the Law of old. For the Lord gave commandment unto Moses that he should make for Aaron the High Priest and for his sons HOLY GARMENTS FOR GLORY AND FOR BEAUTY, that being washed and clad in sacred vesture they might discharge their office in the sanctuary. For by the space of forty days the Lord did teach Moses to make pontifical and priestly vestments for His Priests and for the sons of Levi, yea, ornaments and robes of linen; moreover, Miriam wove and wrought them unto the use of ministry of the Tabernacle of the Covenant. And so it is said in the forty-seventh chapter of Ecclesiasticus, HE BEAUTIFIED THEIR FEASTS. There be certain Vestments, on the other hand, which are taken from the Apostles: but both these and those do signify virtues, and express the ministry of the Incarnation.
3. The Bishop, of a truth, when about to celebrate, doth put off his clothes of everyday, and arrayeth himself in garments pure and holy.
And first, he must put on the Sandals, that he may be mindful of the Incarnation of the Lord.
Secondly, he placeth upon himself the Amice, that he may restrain his motions and his thoughts, his lips and tongue, that he may have a clean heart, receiving a right spirit renewed within him.
Thirdly, the Albe, which reacheth to his feet; that he may have enduring purity in his flesh.
Fourthly, the Girdle, that he may rein in the impulse of desire.
In the fifth place, the Stole, for token of obedience.
In the sixth place, the Tunic, which is of blue, signifying heavenly conversation.
In the seventh place, he doth put on the Dalmatic, which is holy piety, and the mortifying of the flesh.
In the eighth place, the Gloves, that he refuse vainglory.
In the ninth place, the Ring, that he love his Bride, the Church, even as himself.
In the tenth place, the Chasuble, which is Charity.
In the eleventh place, the Napkin, that he wipe away with penance whereinsoever, through frailty or ignorance, he is a sinner.
In the twelfth place, he putteth on the Pall, to shew himself that he imitateth Christ, Who bare our sicknesses.
In the thirteenth place, the Mitre, that he so live as to be worthy of receiving an eternal crown.
In the fourteenth place, he taketh the Staff, which is the authority of power and doctrine.
And after this he goeth upon carpets, that he may learn to despise the earth, and to be in love with heavenly things. And with all these foregoing Vestments he is clad by his Ministers; for the angels do minister unto him, that he may array himself in the garments of the Spirit: or because he is Vicegerent of Christ, unto Whom angels minister, and Whom all things serve.
The Bishop, then, looking toward the north - or toward the east, or the Altar, he may look, if it be more convenient - like a rescuer, a warrior about to fight with a long-standing foe, doth put on the Sacred Vestments as one accoutreth himself with arms, according to the Apostle, as I shall presently set forth.
4. First, the sandals hath he for greaves of war, lest aught of the stain or dust of this world's affections cleave unto him. Secondly, with the Amice, as with an helm, he covereth his head. Thirdly, with the Albe, as with a breast-plate, he envelopeth his whole body. Fourthly, he taketh the Girdle, to a bow, and the Undergirdle to a quiver; now the Undergirdle is that which hangeth down from the Girdle, and wherewith the Bishop's stole is fastened into the same. In the fifth place, with the Stole he surroundeth his neck, as one that brandisheth a spear in the face of his enemy. In the sixth place, he taketh the Maniple, as who wieldeth a club. Lastly, with the Chasuble he covereth himself as it were with a shield; and with a Book he armeth his hand, as with a sword. Of all the which I will speak singly in a different wise hereafter.
And so these are the accoutrements wherewith the Bishop or the Priest ought to arm himself, willing to do battle against ghostly wickedness. For thus saith the Apostle: THE WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE ARE NOT CARNAL; BUT MIGHTY TO THE PULLING DOWN OF STRONGHOLDS. And in another Epistle, that unto the Ephesians, in the sixth chapter: PUT YE ON , saith he, THE ARMOUR OF GOD, THAT YE MAY BE ABLE TO STAND AGAINST THE WILES OF THE DEVIL. STAND THEREFORE HAVING YOUR LOINS GIRT ABOUT WITH TRUTH, AND HAVING ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND YOUR FEET SHOD WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; ABOVE ALL TAKING THE SHIELD OF FAITH, WHEREWITH YE SHALL BE ABLE TO QUENCH ALL THE FIERY DARTS OF THE WICKED: AND TAKE THE HELMET OF SALVATION, AND THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD. Which armour is the foregoing sevenfold priestly vesture, signifying the seven-fold virtue of the Priest; and representing moreover the raiment of Christ wherewith He was arrayed at the time of His Passion, as shall be said anon.
5. Therefore the Bishop must take earnest thought, and the Priest give careful heed, that he bear not the sign without the thing signified: that is, that he wear not the Vestment without its virtue; lest perchance he be as a sepulcre, whited without, BUT WITHIN FULL OF ALL UNCLEANNESS. For what Priest soever adorneth himself with vestments, and putteth not on good manners, the more worthy of respect he seem unto men, so much the more unworthy doth he become in the sight of God. Wherefore the glory of the Episcopate is not approved by the splendour of garments, but by brightness of souls: since those very adornments which did once delight the eyes of the flesh did call the rather for those virtues which were to be understood by their mean; that whatsoever those vestments with the gleam of their gold, the sheen of their jewels, and the variety of all kinds of broidery, did signify, might in these latter days shine out in the conduct and deed of the wearer. For even amongst the ancients the form did win reverence for its meaning, and in our own days the experience of deeds is surer than the riddle of symbols; whereof, with other matters, we read in the Pontifical, where it treateth of the consecration of the Bishop.
6. So accoutred, then, for his conflict AGAINST SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES, and for the allaying of the Judge's anger against His subjects, he proceedeth to the Altar, and by the Confession doth renounce the dominion of the devil, and accuseth himself; and upon ordinary days the folk, as about to pray for their champion, do prostrate themselves upon the ground. When he uttereth the Collects and other devotions, he doth fight as it were with all his might against the devil. When the Deacon before the Gospel upon Fast-days foldeth back the Chasuble over his shoulder, he brandisheth as it were a sword against the foe. When the Epistle is read, it is the edicts of the Emperor that are being proclaimed by the voice of the herald. The chants are the trumpeters, the precentors ruling the choir are the generals of the host marshalling it unto battle, and as they lead the onset, others come to their aid; and the strains of the Sequence are the plaudits and the praise of victory. When the Gospel is read, the foe is as it were wounded with the sword, or scattered forces after victory are gathered into line. The Bishop, while he preacheth, is the Emperor, lauding the conquerors; the Oblations are the spoils, which the victors share; and the strains of the Offertory are the triumph, due to the Emperor. The Pax at the end is given unto the people, as a token of their quiet now that the foe is overthrown. And at the last the folk, after leave granted unto them in the Ite missa est, depart again unto their own with gladness, for that victory and peace be won.
Wherefore the Priest, willing to celebrate Mass, must adorn himself with apparel which agreeth unto his order, and the beauty of his life must beseem his vesture's splendour.
7. Now in this matter it must be noted, that there be six Vestments common unto both Bishop and Priest, for that there be six matters wherein standeth such power as belongeth alike to both. Yet are there nine ornaments peculiar to the Bishop, because there are nine points wherein standeth such power as belongeth to the Bishop alone. By this reckoning, then, of Vestments common and peculiar, are signified the functions common to both Bishop and Priest, and those peculiar to the former alone. Of such appointment, moreover, we read both in the Old and in the New Testament; for we are told that the High Priest, beside those garments which he had in common with the Priests, had also certain peculiar to himself. But in the Old Testament there were four common, and four peculiar, as shall be set forth in the chapter of the Vestments of the Law; and this, indeed, was demanded by mystic truth, for those vestments were given unto carnal and worldly men. For unto the flesh the number four doth well agree, by reason of the four Humours; and unto the world, by reason of the four Elements. By these other are assigned unto them that are spiritual and perfect.
8. For the number six, which is a perfect number, in that it is made up of its own parts added together, doth agree unto perfect things. This is the reason that on the sixth day God finished the heavens and the earth, AND ALL THE HOST OF THEM; and furthermore, being come in the fulness of time, in the sixth age, on the sixth day, at the sixth hour, He redeemed the sons of men. This number, I say, then, is perfect, because it is made up exactly, if one count it in the order of its parts. Fore when we add one, two, and three, the number six is fulfilled. For it is divided into three parts, to wit, one-sixth, one-third, and a half, that is, one, two, and three. the number nine also doth fit with spiritual things, because there are nine orders of angels, which according to the prophet are signified by nine kinds of precious stones.
9. Wherefore there are in all fifteen ornaments of the Bishop; and these by their number do signify fifteen degrees of virtues, which the Psalmist did mark out by as many Songs of Degrees. For the Priestly Vestments do mean virtues, wherewith Priests ought to be adorned: according unto that of the Prophet, LET THY PRIESTS BE CLOTHED WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND LET THY SAINTS SING WITH JOYFULNESS. And they are called talares, that is, reaching unto the feet, because the foot is the end of the body; by which it is set forth that to begin a good work sufficeth not, save thou give attention to fulfil it with perseverance even unto the end; but of this more in the chapter of the Tunic.
Thou seest, then, how that our Bishop putteth on more than eight vestments; whereas Aaron had but eight, which have their counterparts to-day; and this is to say that our RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST EXCEED THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, if we would ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. On the other hand it may also be said that our Bishop hath eight from head to feet, if we except the ornaments of his feet and hands; to wit, the Amice, the Albe, the Girdle, the Stole, the two Tunics, the Chasuble, and the Pall. For the vesting of the feet doth the rather pertain unto our Pontiff than unto Aaron, since unto the former it hath been said, GO YE AND TEACH ALL NATIONS.
Lastly, beside the foregoing Vestments appointed unto Holy Orders and Ministers, there remaineth yet another Vestment of linen, called the Surplice, which those ought to wear over their common dress, who have time that they can give to any of the services of the Altar and Sanctuary; as shall be shown in the following chapter.
10. The Surplice, by reason that it is white, doth point out the cleanness and purity of chastity; as it is written, LET THY GARMENTS BE ALWAYS WHITE.
11. And on account of its name it is a figure of the mortification of the flesh, being called superpellicium, surplice, because of old it was wont to be worn super pellicias tunicas, over tunics of skin, made of the hide of dead animals; which thing is observed in some churches to this day, and figureth how Adam was clad in such skins after his fall.
In the third place it denoteth innocence; and therefore is it often put on before all other sacred Vestments, because they that are appointed unto the ministry of Divine worship ought to count innocency of life the first of all acts of virtue; according unto that of the Psalmist, THE INNOCENT AND JUST HAVE CLOVEN UNTO ME.
12. In the fourth place, by its fulness, it doth meetly express charity, wherefore it is put on over profane and common garments, to mark that CHARITY COVERETH THE MULTITUDE OF SINS. Lastly by its shape - for it is wrought in the form of a cross - it representeth our Lord's Passion, and that they who wear it ought to crucify the flesh, with its vices and lusts.
13. In some places surplices are made of linen chrisoms, which are put upon infants baptised; after the example of Moses, who of the purple and fine linen and other things offered of the people in the Tabernacle, did make garments for Aaron and his sons to put on, when they ministered in the sanctuary.
There is moreover another Vestment, which is called the Pluvial or Cope. This is believed to have been borrowed from the Tunic of the Law; wherefore, as that was ornamented with little bells, so is this embroidered with fringes, which are labours and cares of this world. An hood also it hath, which is heavenly delight; and it is long, reaching unto the feet, which signifieth perseverence to the end. In the forepart it is open, to denote that unto holy livers eternal life is open, and that their own life ought to be an open ensample unto others. And further, by the Cope we understand the glorious immortality of our bodies: wherefore we wear it not, save on the greater Feasts; having respect unto the Resurrection to come, when the elect, laying aside the flesh, shall receive two garments, rest of soul and body's glory. This Vestment also, as well beseemeth, is ample within, nor it joined but by one necessary fastening; because the body, rendered spiritual, shall in that day by no narrowness cloke up the soul. And it is provided with a fringe, because nought shall then be lacking unto our own perfection, but that which WE NOW KNOW IN PART WE SHALL THEN KNOW EVEN AS ALSO WE ARE KNOWN.
14. But certain heretics do vainly talk, affirming that this can nowhere be found in the New Testament, that Christ or His disciples did put on Vestments foregoing; rashly censuring us for that we adorn ourselves with such things, when as Saint John saith, THE LORD RISING FROM SUPPER LAID ASIDE HIS GARMENTS, and did after take unto Him none save only His own; yet that we do put on many other than those we ordinarily wear, in the Mass, wherein we follow that very Feast; whereas the Lord hath bidden us beware of them that love to walk in long garments, saying, BEWARE OF THE SCRIBES, WHICH DESIRE TO WALK IN LONG ROBES. They say, too, that we do this to appear more righteous and better than the people, in despite of that which is said, YE ARE THEY WHICH JUSTIFY YOURSELVES BEFORE MEN; BUT GOD KNOWETH YOUR HEARTS: FOR THAT WHICH IS HIGHLY ESTEEMED AMONG MEN IS ABOMINATION IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
But their error is most plainly confounded by that which goeth before. For in Ezechiel also we read, in the forty-second and forty-fourth chapters, WHEN THEY SHALL ENTER INTO MY SANCTUARY, AND SHALL COME NEAR TO MY TABLE, TO MINISTER UNTO ME, AND TO KEEP MY CHARGE, THEY SHALL BE CLOTHED WITH LINEN GARMENTS, AND NO WOOL SHALL COME UPON THEM, AND WHEN THEY GO FORTH INTO THE UTTER COURT OF THE PEOPLE, THEY SHALL PUT OFF THEIR GARMENTS WHEREIN THEY MINISTERED: AND THEY SHALL NOT SANCTIFY THE PEOPLE WITH THEIR GARMENTS.
15. Mark, furthermore, that the doorkeepers, readers, exorcists, and acolyths wear white vestments, that is to say, Surplice, Amice, Albe, and Girdle, that in the cleanness of their purity they may imitate the angels which are the ministers of God, and may company with them as it were in the white robe of a body made spiritual and glorious, Therefore do they wear vestments of linen, rather than any other; for as flax is not brought unto whiteness save by much toil, so it needeth to pass through many tribulations, if thou wouldst win the glory of the Kingdom.
16. By the Council of Mayence it hath been appointed that the Bishop, at his ordination, should receive a Stole, a Staff, and a Ring; the Priest, a Stole and a Chasuble; the Deacon, a Stole and a Dalmatic, and the Subdeacon a Paten and Chalice; which all, if they be degraded, must render up. And by the Council of Toledo it hath been ruled that the Deacon shall wear 'the white Vestment' - that is, the Dalmatic - only at the time of the Offering, wherein he readeth the Gospel.
17. Also it is to be observed, that the Vestments of the Priest of the Gospel have certain meanings in regard of the Head, which is Christ, and certain in regard of the members, albeit both the Head and Members be called by the Priestly name; as saith the Psalmist unto the Head, THOU ART A PRIEST FOR EVER AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDECH; and to the members saith the Apostle, YE ARE A CHOSEN GENERATION, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD. Therefore their mystic meanings are to be expounded, first, as touching that which agreeth unto the members, secondly as touching that which agreeth unto the Head, which is Christ. And after this manner I shall distinguish in every chapter.
18. The six Vestments, then, which be common to both Bishop and Priest, are these:
The Zone, or Girdle.
And the nine which be peculiar to the Bishop are these:
The Pastoral Staff.
Of all the which in turn we will go on to speak, as also of the Napkin, the Pall, and of the Colours which the Church useth in her Vestments; and also of the Vestments of the Law, or of the Old Testament.