The Pope's vestments


Why does the Pope wear special clothes (dress and hat)? Why doesn’t he dress like everyone else? Did Jesus or the Apostles dress different like this, or did they fit in with the public wearing traditional clothes?



It doesn’t matter.


It really doesn’t matter to me.


People wear special clothing for a number of different reasons. No, Jesus and his Apostles did not wear the clothing the Pope wears today. They wore clothing appropriate for their culture, climate, and state in life. Although, I imagine they did wear special clothing for special occasions as the Jewish faith prescribed.

Pope Benedict wears the traditional garments of Church clergy. During Mass, he wears liturgical garb.

It is much the same as the medical professional who wears a white coat. Or the Bride in a wedding dress. People serving a special purpose wear special clothing. It’s just that simple.


Yes, people wear special clothing for special purposes, but the Pope has unique clothing and has a hat no one else has.

For special Jewish events, as you mention, all those participating would wear the same special clothes.

Medical pro’s wear white coats, yes. But the same white coats. Not the case with the Pope.

You say:
“Pope Benedict wears the traditional garments of Church clergy.”

When did the garments become “traditional” if Jesus, the first Pope Peter, and the other Apostles didn’t dress this way? Which Pope started wearing a jeweled crown? Info:



Bernie, I only responded because I thought you had an honest question.

If you are truly interested in the various garments worn by Church clergy, do some research.


I am asking in case there are those here who know and can tell me.



The wearing of clerical clothing is an ancient practice. One needs only to look in Scripture to see God give specific instructions on how the High Priest and the Levites were to dress. Of course, over time the clothing changed and by Jesus’ time, the clothing is much different than it appeared in (St.) King David’s time. It is quite plausible that Christ would have worn clerical robes as he was a rabbi. This would be a reasonable theory based on the fact that he preached in synagogues and people knew he was a rabbi. Anyway, it is quite obvious that Peter and the apostles did not wear the same garments that are worn today by their successors. The “fancy” clerical vestments worn by the popes probably came in between the Councils of Orange and Toledo, and the Sixth Ecumenical Council. By this time; however, the pope already had many royal gifts, so I’m meerly speculating. Just my :twocents: . I would put more, but I’m awfully tired;) … Hope it helps:) !

Prayers and petitions,


Firstly it’s not a dress and a hat. The robe is called a cassock, an awful lot of priests wear them, as do most bishops and cardinals. The skullcap (if that’s the one you’re thinking of) is called a zucchetto. The tall headdress is called a mitre (actually based on the headgear worn by Jewish priests in the OT). Both of these are also worn by all bishops and cardinals.

The only difference with the Pope is the colour - his are white. Believe it or not the only reason for this was that one Pope came from a religious order where ALL the priests wore white robes.

Now my opinion is that the Pope is the spiritual leader of 1/6 of the world’s population - few other people on the planet have that sort of influence. The Dalai Lama would be the only other spiritual leader who is remotely comparable in this regard.

He really isn’t an ordinary person or ‘like everyone else’. And I don’t think he should dress like it either. Doesn’t mean he should wear the crown again, I don’t particularly like the symbolism of the Pope wearing a crown. I think what he does wear is fine. Distinctive but not flashy.


Bernie, in some evangelical churches where the congregation dresses in dockers and polo shirts, why does the minister wear a suit?


As it is with any clerical person, be it a nun or Priest or Brother ect, they wear ‘uniforms’ to separate themselves from society. The black that a priest wears can be explained as ‘they are of this world, but not part of it’.
I have read the reasons for the different colours i.e. priest bishop cardinal pope, but I cannot recall the answers. I will get back to you. but I know it has something to do with ‘separation’ or words to that effect.
A wonderful thing to see is a priest dressed in blacks and not slacks.



Here is a good artical on it

Why Do Priests Wear Black?

By Fr. William P. Saunders
Herald Columnist
(From the issue of 11/6/03)

I have always wondered, why do priests wear black? Also, the priests in my parish wear cassocks quite often. Where does the cassock come from? — A reader in Alexandria

Over the centuries of the Church, clerics have been required to wear a distinctive garb to identify them as ordained clergy. Particular dioceses or national bishops’ conferences in various countries have established the norms for such clerical attire.

In the early Church, no distinctive garb seems to have been worn, except of course liturgical vestments, which in some cases were also worn outside the celebration of sacraments. For instance, sometimes bishops and priests wore the chasuble like regular clothing, as did the deacons, the dalmatic.

By the sixth century, the clerics and nobility retained the traditional Roman style of clothing of a long tunic and cloak, whereas the male laity began wearing a short tunic, breeches, and mantle — clothing introduced by the barbarian tribes. Also at this time (fifth-sixth century), the cassock as we know it originated in France and was given the Latin name pillicia (or pelisse in early French), meaning “skin” or “hide.” The name signifies that the long tunic was lined with fur to provide the person with warmth, sorely needed in the unheated stone churches, especially during the winter season. However, others besides clerics wore these garments.

The use of the long tunic from neck to feet also reflected a stress on modesty. From the sixth century onward, many local synods passed regulations forbidding clerics from wearing richly styled clothing, tight or skimpy clothing, bright colors, and extravagant ornaments and jewelry. The Council of Braga in Portugal (572) was one of the first such synods to mandate that clergy wear a tunic reaching to the feet. Responding to reports of laxity in Britain, Pope John VIII (c. 875) admonished the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to insure their clergy wore proper attire, particularly long tunics.

to be continued below


From above

In the Middles Ages, the dress of clergy began to be regulated by canon law with other specific regulations passed by local synods. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) decreed that clerics must wear garments closed in front and free from extravagance as to length, such long flowing capes.

At about this time, the cassock became the distinct garb of the clergy alone. The French name soutane (derived from Medieval Latin/Early Italian sottana, which means “beneath,” referring to the fur linings) was given. The English speaking people adopted the word cassock, derived from the Early French casaque.

Eventually, the Church passed more stringent regulations. Pope Sixtus V in 1589 proscribed penalties for those clerics who did not wear the cassock (officially called in Latin vestis talaris). Pope Urban VIII in 1624 mandated that a cincture should be worn with the cassock and the cloak worn over the cassock be of the same length. During the Pontificate of Clement XI, another decree in 1708 allowed the wearing of a shorter cassock (technically the frock coat, sort of like a Nehru jacket) for travel purposes, especially riding horses. In 1725, Pope Benedict XIII forbade clerics to wear civilian attire.

For the United States, the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) promulgated regulations for clerical attire as follows: “We wish therefore and enjoin that all keep the law of the Church, and that when at home or when engaged in the sanctuary they should always wear the cassock which is proper to the clergy. When they go abroad for duty or relaxation, or when upon a journey, they may use a shorter dress, but still one that is black in color, and which reaches to the knees, so as to distinguish it from lay costume. We enjoin upon our priests as a matter of strict precept, that both at home and abroad, and whether they are residing in their own diocese or outside of it, they should wear the roman collar.” In recent times, the regulations have become more relaxed. While many priests wear the traditional cassock for Mass, the distribution of Holy Communion, or in performing other priestly duties around the parish, a regular suit with clerical collar or a clerical shirt have become common place, especially in activities beyond the physical confines of the parish or in daily duties.

The color of the ordinary Roman cassock and clerical attire in general is black. For the regular parish priest, the cassock is totally black. For cardinals, the buttons, trim, and inside hem are scarlet silk; for patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, protonotaries apostolic, and prelates of honor, the buttons, trim and inside hem are amaranth red; and for chaplains to the Holy Father, purple. (For liturgical and public ceremonies of the Church, cassocks are of one color: white for the Holy Father; scarlet for Cardinals; purple for patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, protonotaries apostolic, and prelates of honor; and black for priests. In some dioceses, especially in the tropics, permission is granted for cassocks to be white, and then trimmed in the color designating the status of the cleric.

The symbolism of the cassock is as follows: The Roman collar symbolizes obedience; the sash or cincture around the waist, chastity; and the color black, poverty. Moreover, black is a color of mourning and death; for the priest, the symbolism is dying to oneself to rise and to serve the Lord as well as giving witness of the Kingdom yet to come.

The Code of Canon Law still requires that “clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical garb in accord with the norms issued by the conference of bishops and in accord with legitimate local custom” (no. 284). In our very secular world, the wearing of clerical garb continues to be a visible sign of belief and of the consecration of one’s life to the service of the Lord and His Church.

I hope this helps



The vestments of the Pope, Bishops and Priests of the Church reflect ancient styles, and they should not change just because our modern fashions come and go.

Remember, a big part of understanding the Papacy is understanding Apostolic Succession. The Pope’s traditional attire helps make the link to his predecessor’s more visible.


If you look around the city of Rome, there are a lot of priests, and a good many of them wear cassocks. The pope generally wears a white cassock. It’s not much different than normal dress for priests.

There are quite a few professions which require or use distinctive dress.


The Pope has no such hat. Or at least, he doesn’t use it. What unique clothing are you referring to? Priestly vestments? Those are just stylized Roman fashions. His out-of-Mass clothing? Probably the habit of whichever order he’s from, although, since the Pope is the head of all orders, he can wear whichever one he wants.
Your example regarding medicos and Jewish worshippers denotes classes of people. They dress the same because they are the same. We do not have the dignity of bishop, and so we should not dress like one.


Relate the Pope, Cardinals, Bishop, and Priest differences to that of 5 Star Admiral, Lieutenant, Chief Petty Officer, and a Seaman.

For those non-Navy types relate it to a 5 Star General, Captain, Sargent, Private.


What earthly difference does it make, if the pope wears clothes different from other people, or if he dressed exactly the same???:confused: :confused: :confused:

(I think I must be getting old…)


People will be People…

It is what it is…

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