Cope and Humeral Veil

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The cope is a liturgical cloak of semicircular form reaching to the feet; it is fastened at the breast but open below. Originally a hood was attached to the back, but in the 14th century a shield or decorated flap began to replace it.

Some historians (see Leclercq) hold that the cope was adopted for use in processions from the ancient civil raincoat, a more ample lacerna or paenula. However, most scholars are of the opinion that the cope came into liturgical use around the 9th century as an adaptation of the monastic choir cloak of the 8th century. It appears that the cope was originally bell-shaped and closed like the chasuble but with openings cut in the front to allow the hands and arms to pass through. Soon the front of the cope was open all the way down and simply fastened at the top. By the end of the 11th century it was the vestment used for all liturgical functions except the Mass, and was worn not only by the officiant but by all the clergy on festive occasions.

There is no strict prescription that the cope be made of silk, but a rich material is in keeping with the solemn use to which the cope is put. Recent times have witnessed a return to attaching a hood to the back rather than a shield, for the former is more dignified. The cope follows the color of the feast.

The humeral veil (shoulder veil) is a long scarf eight to nine feet in length and two to three feet in width, worn over the neck, shoulders, and arms. It was known originally as a sindon and was used already in the 7th century to cover the hands out of reverence when holding sacred objects during liturgical ceremonies. It is still used for this purpose; e.g., the priest holds the monstrance with it when he blesses the people at Benediction. Its color varies with the feast, but white is always used at Benediction.

Bibliography: h. leclercq and e. mombert, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 3.1:365381. j. wagner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 8:567568. j. braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient (Freiburg 1907). e. bishop, Liturgica historica (Oxford 1918; reprint 1962) 260275. m. righetti, Manuale di storia liturgica, 4 v. (Milan): v.1 (2d ed. 1950) 1:366.

[m. mccance]