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Origin of the chasuble

A chasuble is one of the so-called paraments, vestments used in Catholic worship. It is the priestly outer garment prescribed for the main celebration of a Eucharist. Priests and bishops wear an alb and a stole under their chasuble

The word chasuble, comes from the Medieval Latin casubula, a by-word of the Late Latin casula, which denoted a cloak with a hood. Casula is a diminutive form of casa, which means 'house'. A casula and a house provide shelter from the rain.

The chasuble originated from the clothing worn by the lower classes in Ancient Greece. This costume was taken over by the Romans. They called this dark-colored hooded cloak paenula, derived from the Greek φελονης (phelonès).

Over time, the paenula got longer. Saint Augustine of Hippo (+ 430) called this type of casula. He compares it to a hut that encompasses the whole body. It had a round or cone-like shape with a hole in the center for the head to stick through.

Another type of paenula was called planeta in the Western Roman Empire, taken from the Greek πλανητης (planètès). Saint Isidore of Seville (+ 636) explains this concept as follows. Greek astronomers had identified wandering stars they called planets. Like the wandering celestial bodies in their orbit in the sky, the ends of these paenula make swinging movements as the robe hangs over the shoulders. For centuries, it was custom for bishops to wear both a dalmatic and a tunic under their chasuble.

Clerical robe
The paenula was used by bishops and priests from the sixth century onwards, both as an outer garment and as a liturgical garment. The first to mention liturgical practice is Saint Germanus, Bishop of Paris. In a letter, dating from 554, he calls the robe both casula and amphibalus (from the Greek αμφιβαλλειν = to throw, put on, dress). Around the Council of Toledo (633) the planeta became established as a clerical garb. At the end of the eighth century, the term is henceforth referred to as casula. Later on, more and more often there is talk of casubula, which gets various corruptions in the vernacular.

From the ninth century, the chasuble is no longer worn by all clerics. From now on the subdeacons wear a tunic and the deacons a dalmatic. Both robes are distinguished from the sleeveless chasuble by sleeves. For a time, wearing the dalmatic was reserved for the Bishop of Rome and his deacons. Later, bishops and deacons of other dioceses were given permission to wear this typical Roman dress. For centuries, it was custom for bishops to wear both a dalmatic and a tunic under their chasuble.

Violin case
From the thirteenth century, the chasubles become shorter again. They are becoming more and more precious in material and richer in decoration. The Baroque era takes the cake in this regard. The shape of the baroque chasuble no longer covers the upper arms and almost resembles a scapular, with a round piece at the front and a rectangular piece at the back. In clerical circles in the USA this type of chasuble is also called 'violin case'. In the nineteenth century, the time of the Gothic Revival, chasubles were again designed as they were worn in the early Middle Ages. After the Second Vatican Council, new forms were sought.

The Slabbinck company has been at the service of the liturgy since 1903 and is a leader in the search for new possibilities.


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