I’ve noticed recently that many (most?) priests who say the traditional Latin Mass wear Roman or “fiddleback” chasubles when doing so. Can anyone explain why this chasuble has become identified with the old Mass? I have researched the history of vestments and have learned that the Roman chasuble originated in the 15th century. Chasubles worn by high ranking clergy at that time had become so stiff and heavy with ornamentation that priests had trouble moving. The “solution” was not to simplify the ornamentation of the vestment, but to cut away its’ sides! Imagine the reaction if priests today began wearing heavily ornamented albs, and then shortened them to knee length to make moving more easy?
The Roman chasuble wasn’t, it seems, born of Divine inspiration and it didn’t evolve organically over time as did some other vestments. It was created in response to a “fashion” excess, and was in essence not much different than the trendy vestments worn by many priests today. Some did condemned it as being a departure from tradition when it first came into being.
Over time, it became hallowed in its own right. I am not at all suggesting that it should not be used. Some “fiddlebacks” are quite beautiful. In light its origin though, how did it become “normal” and why isn’t the Gothic chasuble the choice of traditionalists, who shun innovation and cling to ancient precident in so many ways? I am of course attempting to make a point, not about a chasuble “style”, but about what it represented in terms of faithfulness to tradition. If Latin Mass traditionalists rightly concern themselves with minute and important details of liturgy, then why not extend the same careful consideration to forms of vestments and how they measure up to precedent and historical continuity?