It’s not particularly common to see a priest or other member of the clergy out and about while wearing a cassock, despite the fact that that was originally its purpose. Well, that was sort of its purpose; allow for a short explanation.
Cassock robes (often also referred to as a cassock and cincture) were and still are full length garments, typically made from heavy, warm materials, that cover the body and arms, extend almost to the ground, and fasten securely via the aid of button and typically a special belt called a cincture. Their use was once functional as well as symbolic.
Like so many other vestments (and other clerical garments, since cassocks are not technically vestments) the cassock developed and evolved from secular cloaks that were intended to keep the person wearing them warm. This was useful in the cold winters of Northern Europe, in France, Germany and elsewhere. For those that could afford them, early cassocks were really nothing more than a winter coat.
By some or other stroke of fortune, the clergy of the era began to adapt the style of the long cloak fasted by buttons and a belt, styling it as a cassock. Today, it is common to see priests engaged in clerical duties enveloped in cassocks, but this is, historically, slightly odd.
After the church in Europe had adopted the use of cassock robes, they were worn as the “everyday dress” of the ordained man in question. He would wear the cassock about the parish when he was not engaged in official duties or the delivery of ceremonial proceedings. An ordained member of the clergy could be known by his cassock – both in the church and on the streets.
There are distinct clerical vestments that should be worn when presiding over or officiating a church service, often in the company of the cassock. However, the cassock alone is rarely seen as appropriate to the task. It is either paired with other vestments or not used.
Today, it is rare to see priests and ministers about their daily lives wearing a cassock. It’s not impossible or unheard of, so if you do see it, take note of the fact that you’re looking back into history and witnessing the honor of a once common custom.
That does not in any way mean that cassocks are obsolete today, not by any stretch. All it means is that cassocks are used differently today from how they were so many years ago. Today they are still worn in the officiation and delivery of church services; sometimes, priests serving in the ranks as acolytes or assisting with the other members of the clergy will wear a cassock and not pair it with other vestments.
Interested in learning more about cassocks, their history, their development, and their uses over time, whether modern or archaic? Get in touch with the customer service department at Divinity Clergy Wear or visit them in their store in Hamilton, New Jersey. They’d be more than happy to divulge the details of these interesting garments, but their well runs even deeper.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about the history of cassocks or albs, or even of stoles, robes and other unique vestments, their team can help you out. Give them a call at 877-453-3535 and let them know what you want; they’ll be quick with an answer.
Additionally, they’re a great resource for those looking for the actual garments themselves and not just for information. If you’re in the habit of furnishing yourself or other members of the clergy with cassocks and other robes, Divinity Clergy Wear has what you need – you just need to discover it. Visit their website, DivinityClergyWear.com, or call them today to learn more.