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Dalmatic

DALMATIC

A liturgical garment proper to the deacon, worn over all other vestments. It was originally a garment imported from Dalmatia and worn by the noble class of Roman society. In its primitive form it was a gown reaching to the feet and made of white wool, linen, and even silk, ornamented with two red or purple stripes running from the shoulders to the hem in front and back. The more common opinion holds that at first only the Pope wore it; he gradually allowed others (the Roman deacons first of all in the 4th century) to wear it as a privilege. By the 12th century it had become the proper outer vesture for all deacons, while bishops wore it beneath the chasuble. In the same century the dalmatic was made in the liturgical colors. By the 9th century outside Rome there had begun a process of shortening it to the knees. It was opened on either side to give freedom of movement to the wearer. Heavy velvets, damasks, brocaded silks, brocatelles, and silks with gold and silver threads made the dalmatic a splendid but heavy and unmanageable garment; it was soon opened all the way to the arms with the sleeves themselves slit and held in place by ribbons or cords with tassels. The ribbons in turn disappeared, and the sleeves became short flaps. Modern light and flexible fabrics together with a growth in better taste led to a gradual restoration of the original simplicity of the vestment. With the restoration of the permanent deaconate the dalmatic is frequently worn. Being a garment of nobility, it offers dignity and solemnity to ceremonies.

Bibliography: h. norris, Church Vestments (London 1948). e.a. roulin, Vestments and Vesture, tr. j. mccann (Westminster, MD 1950). j. braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient (Freiburg, 1907). j. mayo, A History of Ecclesiastical Dress (London: B.T. Batsford, 1984). d. hines, Dressing for Worship: A Fresh Look at What Christians Wear in Church (Cambridge 1996). d. philippart, ed., Clothed in Glory: Vesting the Church (Chicago 1997).

[m. mccance]

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