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Christianity

Signs and Symbols

What signs or symbols distinguish Christian ritual specialists or religious officials?

A number of Christian communities expect their officials to wear distinctive clothing in public. Roman Catholics and Anglicans, especially, but increasingly clergy of other groups as well, wear dark or black suits with a clerical or “Roman” collar. A small square of white appears at the front-center of the shirt collar. Clerical shirts have become more colorful of late, so that one can expect to see clerical collars with white, gray, or any other shade of shirt. Many Protestant ministers prefer to dress in coat and tie. But when Christian officials lead their communities in worship they almost all wear distinctive garments or “vestments.” Among the most elaborate are those of the Eastern churches—both Orthodox and Catholic—usually including richly brocaded copes and even regal crowns, especially for bishops and patriarchs. Roman and Anglo-Catholic liturgical garb ordinarily features a plain white undergarment called an alb, with a neck band, called the stole, hanging down in front, and perhaps an outer vestment, color-coordinated to the liturgical feast or season, called the chasuble. Ministers in some denominations wear an academic style robe to preach and lead worship. Ethnically based Christian communities often supplement their ritual garb with distinctive colors or items of clothing, such as headgear or sashes.



A Catholic priest wearing traditional dark clothing with a clerical or “Roman” collar.

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