Sunday, 10 December 2006

Roman Dress

H/T to Andrew Cusack for this recent picture of three seminarists of the Scots College, Rome. Certainly when I was a student in Rome (at the turn of the Millennium) these could be spotted quite regularly at big functions. On one famous occasion, reported in the national papers, the British seminarists gathered in the cortile of the Palazzo Doria Pamphili to greet Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, who were visiting Rome during the Holy Year. The English students were told by the staff not to wear cassocks, which we could wear officially for Masses at St Peter's. Needless to say we felt rather under-dressed in our clergyman suits when the Scots turned up en masse in their colourful attire!

Up until the 1960s it was easy to identify the different national Colleges through their distinctive dress. If you think the Scots were striking in their heather-coloured garb, then look at the students of the German and Hungarian College, who were known as the gamberi cotti (boiled lobsters) on account of their red soutanes.

It was said that such conspicious costume was devised so that they could be spotted easily and not fall prey to behaviour inappropriate to ecclesiastics. Another version is that they were given scarlet so that they were not be blamed for incidents for which students of the English College were really responsible!

The members of the Ruthenian College (founded 1897) were equally colourful, sporting a blue cassock and an orange sash (some sources say yellow)!

The students of the North American College (NAC) wore a black cassock with blue piping and a crimson sash, as you can just make out in this photo of the College's first students:

The students of the Venerable English College had black cassocks without a sash, over which they wore a soprana, a sort of sleeveless academic gown with 'wings,' originating from the Jesuit habit. The most distinctive part of the dress of a Venerabilino was the 'soup plate hat' on which the brim on either side was joined to the crown by two cords.

The second photo shows an unusually snowy St Peter's in the mid-1950s. The chap in glasses second from the left is now Archbishop of Liverpool.

Such ecclesiastical dress must have made Rome a very colourful place indeed. In her superlative Companion Guide to Rome (first published 1965), Georgina Mason notes with regret that 'these rules were general until the last few years, but things are changing fast and already many of them are of purely historic interest.' Zadok the Roman has a full list of the Roman 'seminarian dress of yore.'



Anonymous elena maria vidal said...

Very interesting article, thank you, Father.

3:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for this, Father.
I found it interesting to see the colours my own countrymen (Scots) wear.

It's good to see it's not died out!

6:04 pm  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Isn't the double breasted cassock more of an Anglican thing?

9:16 am  
Anonymous Castor said...

The "Ruthenian College" had a great 'Roman' soutane (wrap-around like the Jesuits) with a coloured sash. In the 70s, Father Sophronius Mudryj (now retired bishop of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine) changed the cassock to dark blue with a YELLOW sash; the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Instead of a soprana over top, they use a rason (riasa), which the older form of the soprana. Instead of the sleeves being cut away and dangling at the rear, they maintain their large full 'ali-baba' sleeves. The rason is worn over top of the "under cassock" by all Byzantine clergy.
P.S. Gamberi are not lobster. They are Prawns.

9:21 am  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

I suspect the Anglicans borrowed it from a Roman model!

9:21 am  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Re. gamberi - yes, I thought it rather odd that gamberi was translated by Georgina Mason as lobsters - I thought it might be some archaic usage. The Germans obviously didn't look like boiled prawns (and that would offend their Prussian sensibilities)!

10:05 am  
Anonymous Castor said...

Re the "Ruthenian" (Ukrainian) College: sorry, that should have been grey soutane. They seminarians are still required to wear the college cassock for liturgical services. They used to wear them to meals as well, but I think that the current rector let that drop.

The interesting thing would be to get a an old coloured or colour photo or postcard of The Gregorian University at 12:15 pm. I have looked for one for years, in vain. A sea of colour with the college cassocks and religious habits. Also, the hats and hat-ribbon colours were interesting. The strings on the VEC hats were common to all ecclesiastical hats but seem to have gradually been dropped in the 20th century. One never sees them in the 1950s except as a remnant on the papal and cardinal's roman hats. In the old fashion, Benedict XVI has strung-up one side of his summer straw hat.

12:14 pm  
Anonymous Cas said...

The soprana was not "part of the Jesuit habit", as there is was and is no jesuit habit. The Jesuits just retained the typical Roman clerical dress of the early 16th century, as did the oratorians the early 17th c form. The soprana was standard clerical gear for 'in house' and outdoor gear for seminarians. The Oratorians still retain it for inhouse in its "zimara" or simar form.

For clerics of the chamber, the soprana took on the colour of the papal livery which, since Pius IX has been roman paonazza or magenta-pink, as was called the mantellone. This is why papal chamberlains had no choir dress; they were liveried servants of the Apostolic Palace(s).

12:20 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Castor - thanks for the other message. Feel free to pop in to Kingsland if you're passing!

8:01 pm  

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