4 June 2023

What is a cassock? – Function, colors and characteristics

By Donald

For many, priests are the representatives of Christ on Earth, and are responsible for offering sacramental or sanctifying grace through the word of God. Your clothing should differentiate them from the rest of the men and, for this reason, we will always see them wearing a cassock, which will vary in color depending on the type of celebration or the hierarchy they hold within the church.

What does the word cassock mean?

In principle, we get that its origin comes from the Latin ‘subtana‘ which means “below”, taking into account that it is intended to cover the body of the ecclesiastic and other laymen of the church. Is quite robe-likebut it has a joint in the torso area in order to form a single piece.

Furthermore, this interesting word comes from the Italian language, specifically from the term ‘sottana‘. The meaning in Spanish is related to the clothing according to the liturgical calendar worn by the priests of the Catholic Church and other reformed groups. The cassock is a garment fabricwhich is usually black or white, in order to project seriousness and simplicity.

The word cassock has an aura of respect for whoever wears it, as it reminds us that the priest renounce earthly luxuries to surrender to God, being a way to maintain that sobriety, away from the material wealth of the mute in terms of clothing.

Consequently, the cassock is a dress cut that is fastened along the body, that is, we will see that it has buttons or a top-down closure. It also has long sleeves and is usually made with fresh fabrics for the tropical regions.

What is a cassock used for?

The use of this clothing seeks to show us a kind of respect for the priest who wears it, since he is the reflection of a clean existence and away from the luxuries of common life. In the same way, the cassock serves to cover the human body of the religious, because he himself ceases to belong to this world and surrender completely to God.

For that reason, when we see a church member wearing a cassock, we immediately know that he is in the midst of a life of holiness. That is, that person has renounced the banalities of the world common to dedicate oneself completely to the service of God.

The cassock serves to provide that touch of purity or sacrifice to men who give their lives to Christ, renouncing most of the luxuries of the real world. Also, this kind of tunic evokes an image of purity and chastity when seeking spiritual help through these church members.

From the physical point of view, the cassock serves to protect religious from cold or sun rays, since they must go out to visit the communities constantly. In this sense, we will see that these tunics are made of quite resistant materials, varying the thickness of the fabric depending on the region in which they are found.

As a result of renouncing the luxuries of today’s world, the priest gives himself up to poverty and, for this very reason, does not exhibit luxurious clothing, but rather wears the cassock that represents God on Earth, even seeking to go unnoticed in terms of his physique or bodily attributes so as not to be the object of carnal desires by his followers.

What are the characteristics of the cassocks?

When we talk about this item of clothing for the representatives of the church, we are going to find two different areas, since we can capture the physical characteristics of the cassock, but it also has various spiritual aspects necessary to highlight.

We must not only focus on the external, or on what we see, which refers to aspects such as color, size, type of fabric or design of the tunic, but it is also vital that we keep in mind the great value of chastity and purity that the cassock transmits. It is a symbol of sacrifice, since it is the way in which the priest stop showing off your body.

Below we will mention the physical characteristics of the cassockwhich are:

  • It is a comfortable tunic that protects the religious of the low temperatures or the sun, since they are always on the move visiting those most in need and taking the word of God to every corner of the world.
  • The tunic is made in different types of fabricbecause the material will vary depending on the geographical area in which the priest is located.
  • the cassock is long in order to completely cover the body and clothing of the religious. That is why it is made with long sleeves and a closed neck.
  • It has zippers or buttons for greater security when putting it on and provides comfort and protection during the religious ceremonies.
  • We will get them in different colors, since depending on the time of year and what the liturgical calendar indicates, the cassock or their accessories will vary in color.

Likewise, the cassock has a series of spiritual characteristics that we should know and, for this reason, we will mention some notable aspects below:

  • It is the element that covers the priest from the carnal pleasures of the world, since it becomes a way of cover the body and reduce glances provocative of the rest of the people towards their bodily attributes.
  • The cassock plays an important role in the vow of poverty made by priests, since they give up the riches of the world. For this reason, the cassock completely covers the clothing that he wears under it.
  • Another feature in the spiritual realm is the puritysince the cassock, being a symbol of holiness, shows us who are the representatives of the church on Earth, through an element of respect and chastity.
  • It is an indication of charity, since the priests are there for help those most in need from the spiritual realm, as well as taking the word of God to those who need it most.

In addition to moderation when dressing, the cassock has some relevant characteristics depending on the color it has. On the one hand, for the most part, since the seminar stage, it is black, symbolizing the mourning for the death of Christ. It is a kind of penance and renounces worldly luxuries, highlighting the humility of the spirit of the person who wears it.

The cassock is also a hierarchy symbol inside the churchsince when it is red or violet, it denotes a superior rank, due to the fact that the tone represents the strength of the blood of Christ and the martyrdom suffered in his struggles.

In the case of the white cassock, which we always see in religious activities, is a projection of the purity of the soul of the representative of the church. It is a symbol of peace, joy and celebration. In fact, that is the color the Pope wears at all times, limited to priests only during mass.

What color is the bishop’s cassock?

The hierarchy within the Catholic Church is very important, and for this reason we will see that the religious dress in different colors and with different accessories that denote certain range of respect. For this reason, the tone of the priest’s cassock is not the same as that of the bishop, monsignor or that of the supreme pontiff.

In the case of color of the bishop’s cassock, we will be able to observe that it is of a choral hue, but according to the degree of prelature it will vary. In this case, we will see the purple cassock with a crimson cuff, piping and brooches. However, the bishop’s cassock in his daily life is black with the buttons and cuff in coral, purple or red.

In tropical countries, where high temperatures remain throughout the year, the cassocks of the bishops are white, like those of the rest of the religious. This is because the white fabric is much cooler and helps to bear the heat of those regions, especially when going out to evangelize in the fields under the sun.

The green color can also be achieved as one of the characteristic tones of the bishops. Even the symbol of it has that interesting color, denoting hope and charity. It should be noted that since the Lateran Council in the year 1215, the colors reserved for the bishops were green and red, to stand out more than white, black or violet that were assigned to the rest of the clergy.

However, these norms have undergone an evolution, so that nowadays we do not often see the bishop dressed in green, but rather carrying the purple or amaranth redbeing much more subdued than the tone of the cassock of the cardinals, which do have an intense red.

What color is the priest’s cassock at Easter?

According to the liturgical calendar, the priest’s clothing at the time of celebrating mass will vary a little. For this reason, when we go to church in different times of the yearwe see the priest dressed in clothes or accessories of green, red, white, purple, among others.

During the Easter period, the priest dresses in white, as it is a time of celebration. Let us remember that before Christ, this was a time of celebration, happy days for the fruits of the crops and, therefore, with the appearance of Christianity, at Easter we celebrate the return of Jesus from the dead.

In conclusion, the priest’s clothing at Easter time is white, the same as during the christmas celebration, because it is a tone that denotes purity and innocence. However, for these periods it is a symbol of joy and entire celebration.

What fabric is the cassock made of?

The material with which they make this religious clothing is very varied, since it will depend on the country or geographical location, since it must be adapted to the climatic conditions of the region. In general we will see light and comfortable materials such as gabardine or polyester. However, they can be made with cotton or wool, lined or simple, in order to adapt to the climate of the region.

What are the parts of a cassock?

The cassock is a representative element of the priest and, therefore, we should not only see it as a long tunic that covers them from the feet up to the neck, since it has some important elements, such as long sleeves, buttons and zippers, for greater comfort. The same, depending on the rank that the religious has in the churchit may also contain buttons of a specific color, a different design on the cuff and the neck guard with a very special touch.