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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A relic of St Cajetan's Cope

A relic of St Cajetan's Cope
(the piece of cloth in the centre of the reliquary)

This is a tiny piece of the cope which St Cajetan wore whilst exercising his priestly ministry and is a very precious and tangible link to the Saint who turned his life into a exercise of trust in God and service to his fellow man.

Definition of a"Cope"

(Known in Latin as pluviale or cappa), a vestment which may most conveniently be described as a long liturgical mantle, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. As existing monuments show, whether we look at pictorial representations or at the copes of early date which still survive, there has been remarkably little change in the character of the vestment from the earliest ages. Then as now it was made of a piece of silk or cloth of semicircular shape, and, as it is important to note, it differed from the earlier form of chasuble only in this, that in the chasuble the straight edges were sewn together in front while in the cope they were left open. The most conspicuous external modification which the cope has undergone, during the past thousand years and more, lies in a certain divergence in the shape of the hood, a feature which, after all, is not in any way an essential part of the vestment. In some early examples we find only a triangular hood, which was no doubt intended to of practical utility in covering the head in processions, etc. But with the lapse of time the hood has into a mere ornamental appendage, and it is quite commonly represented by a sort of shield of embroidery, artificially stiffened and sometimes adorned with a fringe, the whole being fastened by buttons or by some other device to the back below the broad orphrey which usually forms an upper border to the whole. The fact that in many early chasubles, as depicted in the drawings of the eighth and ninth centuries, we see clear traces of a primitive hood, thus bearing out the explicit statement upon the point of Isidore of Seville, strongly confirms the view that in their origin cope and chasuble were identical, the chasuble being only a cope with its edges sewn together.

A 15th century embroidered cope from Italy

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